While much of the information parents are interested in overlaps with information that students want to know (and hence, you should read the student FAQ), we also know that parents have some unique concerns which we address here.
Q. How will debate help my student?
A. Just as there are many different reasons to join the team, there are many different ways in which participation in this activity aids and assists students. Debate is unlike almost any other extracurricular opportunity as it challenges students to use their own voice to confront the significant public issues of the day, perform for an audience of both their peers and adults, and learn how to identify problems in even the most general statements about society. In short, debate teaches students how to be active public citizens.
Similarly, the activity teaches students how to effectively communicate; whether it is the complicated emotions of a dramatic interpretation piece, or the complicated philosophy underlying a debate position, students learn the abilities to analyze, organize, and persuade. Of course, the activity also offers students the chance to grow as people by being a part of a team, meeting students from all over the nation, and even perhaps getting to travel around the nation to compete. Moreover, our students become well-versed in the literature of their respective events – even when it is isn’t assigned in class. How many high school students do you know who can compare Aristotle to Nietzsche, or explain why U.S. energy policy needs to increase incentives for alternative energy? It goes without saying that this kind of learning is and recognized as valuable later in life as speech and debate participation assists both in college admissions and in success at college itself.
Q. What is the time commitment?
A. Much like all worthwhile activities, the more your student participates, the more he or she will gain from the activity. That said, we have no competitive requirements to be a member. While most members do compete regularly, we are also perfectly happy to have members who come to practice regularly and for whatever reason (usually other time commitments) compete only rarely, if at all. We do find, however, that the part of the activity that students enjoy most is the attendance at competitions both local and national. As for practice, we do expect our members to, at a minimum; attend practice regularly at least once and hopefully twice a week. This schedule is designed to give students the maximum flexibility, not the maximum expectation. Of course, if your child cannot attend due to a special situation or even is just feeling very overwhelmed that particular week with homework, which is perfectly fine, just try and let us know so we do not plan around his or her attendance.
Q. What does it cost?
A. The school has a budget to pay for tournament registration, judges, coaches stipends. We have an established parent booster club to raise money to cover other tournament costs such as transportation and housing. For overnight tournaments members are expected to cover their costs food for all tournaments they attend (i.e. concessions, restaurants, etc.). If you have an individual financial hardship, we do not want that to be a barrier on your student’s participation.
Q. How does the team communicate?
A. We try to send out a weekly e-mail notification about tournaments and practices. These e-mails generally include information about upcoming tournaments, and results. We keep you informed about when we are leaving for tournaments, when we can be expected back, and how we are getting there. We also announce if there is going to be a change to the practice schedule.
Q. How can I help out the team?
A. Becoming an active member of the parent booster club will assist the team in a number of ways. First, the parent booster club takes the lead in fundraising for the team in the form of soliciting donations, collecting parent booster club dues, and setting up student-driven fund raising. Second, we ask that parents help us run a debate tournament in conjunction with the Highland Park debate team. Also, we would like parents to assist with judging at tournaments and arranging car pools to local tournaments when. Please feel free to contact Pete Nikolai, at pnikolai AT gmail.com.