Debate team skills put students on a special stage

Some high schoolers use free time to goof off with friends, but Brandon McNamara studied tough topics like nuclear war and alternative energy when he was not in the classroom.

McNamara was a member of the Harlan Community Academy’s debate team, which meant he often stayed up late doing research on issues like biofuels and global warming, and he and his teammates set up mock debates on weekends so they could practice for tournaments. Because of his dedication and debating skill, McNamara won a full ride to Northwestern University. He’s just one example of how participating in debates has helped Chicago Public Schools students excel academically, while also improving their social skills.

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Research indicates Pickert is likely right. 2004 University of Missouri study found that debating skills have a positive effect on academic performance. And researchers at the University of Michigan are looking at the impact on academics.

Robert Pincham, Harlan’s debate coach, says all of his debaters have received college acceptance letters from such schools as the University of Illinois, Howard University and Vanderbilt University.

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