Student Debaters Take Center Stage - Young Voices Debate Tough Topics: DEI and Climate Change

Young Voices Debate Tough Topics: DEI and Climate Change

This week:

  • New episode: Students showcase the power of debate’s presence in classrooms
  • A look at the students representing tomorrow’s leaders
  • Celebrating our colleague’s achievement from the Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Your Sunday reading list



This week, something a little different: a debate tournament with high school students from across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, who prove it’s possible, as the 109th Mayor of New York City and judge Bill de Blasio states, to “make debate great again.” But it’s also a reminder that younger voices are fully capable of participating in smart, civil debates about key issues in the public square, even about the climate, DEI, Donald Trump, and Taiwan.

That was accomplished at a two-day tournament run by Incubate Debate, a debate league helping to bring the power of discourse to young Americans in the classroom. While questions we’ve argued on our show were included, such as Donald Trump’s role on January 6th and the U.S.’s foreign policy in Taiwan, we’re focusing this episode on students who were debating the following two questions: “Should College DEI Programs Be Abolished?” and “Is Climate Change An Emergency?”

Our team at Open to Debate was on the ground at Incubate’s National Championship in Jacksonville, Florida in April, where we followed a few participants as they progressed through the competition. Moderator-in-Chief John Donvan helped preside over the final round of debates before judges made their decisions about who made their points best. Once the national champion was crowned, our organization was proud to award them a $10,000 prize in scholarship funds.

Ten judges preceded over the tournament, including our CEO Clea Conner, the 109th Mayor of New York City (and previous debater) Bill de Blasio, and Chief Program Officer of the Bill of Rights Institute Stan Swim.

The Value of a Debate-Driven Education by the Numbers:

  • A study from the University of Virginia and Harvard found that students who participated in debate were more likely to graduate high school and attend college by 12 percentage points each.
  • Students who participate in debate programs make a 68% improvement in English language arts, which is concentrated in reading and critical thinking skills.


Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or watch the documentary we created showing the event on YouTube. As always, let us know what you think and tell us how you think these students did.


Help Expand Students’ Access to Debate on Campuses Nationwide

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Tomorrow’s Leaders at the Incubate Debate National Championship

Bill de Blasio, Clea Conner, James Fishback, and a Student Debater on the Importance of Debate


Former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio:

“I’ve done a lot of debating. I love debating. I’ve done it in my career as an elected official and I think it’s incredibly revealing. I think debate is unlike almost anything else that happens in the public discourse; debate brings out a level of truth. You get an opportunity to see how people truly think, especially when they’re pressed and challenged by smart people. Debate done right is elevating, is revealing, and gets people thinking. We need a lot more of that.”


Clea Conner, CEO of Open to Debate:

“We see debate as a way, a method, of learning another point of view, of hearing how other people think about these complex issues. [It builds] critical thinking and confidence to get up there and make an argument in front of your peers. It’s a high-pressure situation. [It requires] research, trying to understand and find the truth. And in order to do that, challenging your own bias.”


James Fishback, Founder of Incubate Debate:

“We believe that high school debates are not merely competitions, but powerful platforms for young Americans to challenge ideas and assumptions, think critically, and relentlessly pursue truth.”


Destiny, High School Senior and Contestant:

“When you think of debate, you think you’re assigned a topic and you’re just going to be arguing with people. But no, you’re assigned a topic and you do your research. You do your research to find different solutions, to find the answers to the topic, to create this open world of debate… I was this shy little 14 year-old with no idea what she’s doing — bawled her eyes out when she made it to finals the first time ever — to now this girl that’s able to go up and give a speech without a notecard, which I never thought I was going to be able to do, have everything in my head, and be calm, cool, and collected.”



Our Award-Winning Editorial Producer

Recently, our editorial producer Marlette Sandoval was awarded a Certificate of Recognition for Exemplary Service from the Maryland State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution “with sincere gratitude and appreciation for [her] dedication to excellence in journalism.”

Ten journalists from across Maryland were recognized by the Maryland State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution for their work, ranging from local journalists covering local history beats to a Washington Post photographer to an Emmy-winning news anchor for one of Maryland’s local stations. Congratulations Marlette!




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