Through ASAP Debate, more than 350 Philadelphia students in 45 middle and high school clubs explore important real-world issues while building the critical reading, writing, thinking, and public speaking skills relevant to post-secondary education and employment opportunities.
The Philadelphia Scholastic Debate League (PSDL) is the competitive organization for traditional public and charter school debate teams in Philadelphia, and is one of the largest urban debate leagues in the country. Students compete in teams of two, following the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) rules for Public Forum Debate. High school debate teams use national topics that change monthly, based on current news stories and issues facing the United States and the wider world. Middle school teams study one previous high school topic each semester, allowing the younger students more time to build their understanding and debate skills. Past topics have included for-profit prisons, genetically modified foods, and whether or not students in the U.S. should be guaranteed two free years of post-secondary education at a community or technical college. ASAP provides evidence packets and sample cases to help students and coaches with the rigorous research and case writing required by debate.
ASAP organizes a six-month high school debate season consisting of weekly after school matches held at Central High School, as well as monthly middle school tournaments held at various locations throughout Philadelphia. In addition, ASAP provides initial training to new debate coaches, ongoing resources and instructional support, free transportation to events, and access to a variety of regional, state, and national competitive opportunities for advanced debaters, including the Pennsylvania High School Speech League (PHSSL) and Philadelphia Catholic Forensics League (PCFL). In 2016, six students from Academy at Palumbo and Science Leadership Academy represented Philadelphia at the National Catholic Forensic League Finals in Sacramento, California!
Participation on a debate team helps students develop and sharpen their research, oral presentation, writing and strategic thinking skills. According to the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues, students participating in debate for only one year experienced a 44% improvement in critical thinking skills. Students who captained their debate teams improved their odds of getting into college by more than 60%, compared to an improvement of 5% for sports team captains. ASAP Debate gives students the chance to compete with their peers from schools across Philadelphia, enforcing sportsmanship, positive socialization and peer networking.