The English-Speaking Union

Middle School Public Debate Program

Debate Team from the Hackley School wins 2016 English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Championship Tournament

NATIONAL NEWS – posted May 1, 2016

The Hackley School, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Kiri Fitzpatrick, Hannah Ostfield, Alex Goldman

The English-Speaking Union March iddle School Debate Program capped off a successful fifth year with its annual Championship Tournament, which took place at Stone Bridge Middle School in Allentown, NJ, on April 16, 2016.  All six ESU Middle School Debate Program leagues participated bringing together 250 debaters from 29 schools from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. 

The English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Program teaches the fundamentals of argumentation and debate to students in grades 5-8. Established in 2011, the program now includes three ESU-sponsored leagues in New York, two in New Jersey and one in Washington, DC.  Some 50 public, private, parochial and charter schools participate in the program, engaging more than 1,000 teenagers annually in weekly after-school debate activities designed to develop and hone student's public speaking, critical thinking, listening and debating skills.

Throughout the Championship Tournament, 216 rounds of debate took place with the help of more than 100 volunteer judges, logging approximately 6,000 minutes of debate. The middle schoolers debated five topics:

  • The US should establish a no-fly zone in Syria.
  • The US should have compulsory voting in general elections.
  • Schools should require cameras in classrooms. 
  • Scientists should use cloning technology to resurrect animals made extinct by humans.
  • The US should adopt the metric system.

The final debate took place between the The School at Columbia University (Big Apple Division of the New York Debate League) and The Hackley School (Gotham Division of the New York Debate League). The opposition team from Hackley (in speaking order: Alex Godman, Hannah Ostfield, and Kiri Fitzpatrick) ultimately prevailed in the final debate, "Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court career did more good than harm," against the proposition team from Columbia (Jacob Santelli, Otto Moran, and Emery John). 

In addition, Lara Schechter, a debater from the Hackley School, received the coveted Golden Gavel for earning top individual speaker points across all five rounds of debate.

Kate Shuster, the co-founder of the Claremont McKenna College Middle School Public Debate Program, presented "Founders Awards" to four members of the ESU Middle School Debate Program, recognizing their efforts in organizing and growing the program. Coaches Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Hackley School, Dee Burek of Stone Bridge Middle School, and Mike Risen of the Norwood School as well as ESU Director of Education, Carol Losos, all accepted a Founders Award from Ms. Shuster.


   Back row: Dora Rice (teacher), Tanner Terry (coach);

Front Row: Jazmin Sherwood (teacher), Emery John, Jacob Santeli, Otto Moran

Founded in 1920, the ESU is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that promotes English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students and educators.  The English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Program is a joint venture with The Middle School Public Debate Program at Claremont McKenna College, the world's largest program for classroom and contest debating for middle school students. The English-Speaking Union works with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members to form debate leagues and promote classroom oral literacy initiatives.

The English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Program is made possible, in part, by generous support from the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the Richard D. Donchian Foundation, and the Henry E. Niles Foundation.  

Return to In the News