District 65 is joining a debate league for middle schoolers to participate in throughout the upcoming winter and spring, Superintendent Devon Horton said in an email to district families on Friday.

The move comes after the district initially chose to pause debate activities for this school year, despite the creation of a new Midwest Middle School Debate League that had offered district middle schools a spot in competitions this fall.

“While we anticipated that debate would not resume until next school year, we know that debate is a valuable way for students to develop public speaking, communication, and critical thinking skills,” Horton wrote in his announcement. “I’m excited that we will be able to offer this opportunity to our students while still working on finalizing a more robust structure for next year.”

Nichols Middle School, where students have participated in debate teams for several years. Credit: Duncan Agnew

The league that the district is joining for the winter is run by a Chicago organization called Argument-Centered Education, which aims to prepare students for college through debate.

All three of the district’s middle schools will pool together one collective team to compete in three competitions on Jan. 28, Feb. 18 and April 15, according to Horton’s email. To prepare, students will participate in three training workshops with Argument-Centered Education, one each month in January, February and March.

The district will host one of the competitions, and the other two will take place at schools in northwest Indiana, which are part of the other school districts involved in the league.

The national topic for debate this year is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.”

“D65 students will be given a set of files related to this question, along with other materials aimed at practicing and preparing for the three tournaments,” Horton said.

District 65 is also covering all costs connected to debate participation, including transportation, league fees and lunches. Interested students can look out for more info when classes return after winter break. Parents or students with questions about debate can contact the district’s Professional Learning Manager Jennifer Barnes at barnesj@district65.net.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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