It’s Up for Debate

As described in the Fall 2012 issue of the Vermont Quarterly, Colchester High School alumnus and current member of UVM’s Lawrence Debate Union Drew Adamczyk is currently ranked ninth in the United States in the worlds debate format. Drew got his start in formal debate after he and a fellow classmate rejuvenated CHS’s debate team and met with considerable success almost from the start, placing as runners-up at the state meet in their first year. (To read more about UVM’s debate team and about Drew’s accomplishments, click here.)

Why is debate important?

In addition to eloquent speech and refined writing skills, debate requires excellent research skills in order to examine complex issues from multiple perspectives in a competitive environment. It also hones analytical and organizational skills and the ability to listen carefully and take excellent notes. Participants sharpen their concentration and further develop their focus as they learn to calmly, rationally, and convincingly defend a position when challenged with an opposing viewpoint.

As if all of that were not enough, debate prepares students for effective participation in leadership and conflict resolution, develops proficiency in investigation and analysis of issues, enhances social skills, and integrates knowledge about a vast array of subjects and disciplines. Most importantly, all of these skills are useful throughout the students’ personal, scholastic, and professional lives. “For my money, debate is one of the best activities for college and life preparation,” said CHS’s Guidance department chair Bob Hall. “Students develop many valuable twenty-first-century skills in debate, including research, collaboration, communication, public speaking, critical thinking, and problem-solving, rigorously tested by their peers in authentic settings.”

CHS participates in the Vermont Debate and Forensics League, which follows the Public Forum debate format and involves two-person teams debating current events topics. For example, the November topic was “Resolved: Current US foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security,” and December’s topic was “Resolved: The United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts.” Students must prepare to debate both sides of the resolution in front of citizen judges since they do not know which side they must debate until the competition begins. And because there are three rounds of “power-matched” competition in a tournament, each team could potentially debate both sides of an issue in the same competition. In order to win a tournament, teams must win all three rounds and accumulate the highest total speaker points. CHS’s debate topics are often—but not always—selected by the National Forensic League (NFL), which is the oldest and largest high school speech and debate honor society in existence.

In addition to the debate team, CHS also offers a forensics team—and because these teams are in the same league, they frequently travel together and co-host tournaments. Both teams are extra-curricular activities open to students in grades 9–12. The forensics team provides students with the opportunity to develop and deliver speeches about a variety of subjects in a number of vastly different categories. The Impromptu category, for example, involves drawing a topic and delivering a two- to three-minute speech with only one minute of advanced preparation. In the Radio Announcing category, participants create and deliver a radio broadcast about local or national news, weather, and sports and even include a thirty-second commercial with only thirty minutes of preparation. Other categories include Original Oratory (which involves memorizing and presenting a speech on a controversial issue), Extemporaneous Speaking (delivering a speech with only thirty minutes of advanced preparation), Reading of Prose, Reading of Poetry, Reading of Drama, and Reading of Drama Duo. There have been a number of state champions from CHS in past years, particularly in the Prose and Poetry categories; CHS is known as the poetry school, having won or placed in state meets every year for many years.

CHS is hosting a combined Debate and Forensics tournament on Saturday, January 12, and community members are encouraged to participate as judges. No special knowledge is required; all judges will be trained on the day of the event. For more information about the debate and forensics teams, or to find out more about judging the tournament, please e-mail Bob Hall ( in CHS’s Guidance department or call (802) 264-5710.

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