Choosing The Right debateLA Program

If you're already involved with competitive debate & speech, attending our program should be an easy decision. Thousands of students attend debate camp to improve their skills (or to keep from regressing). Like learning an instrument, a language or sport, long breaks from practice will quickly lead to attrition.

Public Speaking and Argumentation skills are universally applicable. In a recent Pew Research Survey, respondents were asked which skill was most important for future success - 90% listed effective communication. We actually have a full page dedicated to why everyone should do debate.

More and more schools are cutting public speaking from their curriculum. And even where there are classes offered, many students don't have time to fit it in their schedule. 

An intensive 2-Week summer debate & speech program will have about the equivilant hours as a full semester of a speech or debate class.

This page will address four important issues:

  1. I don't know if I want to continue competing in debate 
  2. I don't know if my Upper School/High School has debate, or what type of debate/speech they offer
  3. I never plan on competing in debate or speech
  4. We'll take a look at how students hoping to be involved with debate through high school may use debate camp as their primary training.

I don't know if I want to continue competing in debate

Competitive debate is not necessarily for everyone. However, summer is the best time for you to decide if debate is something you wish to pursue during the school year. 

Taking the summer off of debate will make joining the team even more difficult in the fall. It can also be time-consuming and stressful to learn how to do a new activity while starting a school year and even pursuing other interests. 

Many teams rely on summer camp to teach students the skills they do not have time to work on during the school year.  As specific tournament preparation becomes more pressing, those who have learned more discreet skills in debate and argumentation will accel - both in preparing efficiently, but also in executing strategies.

I don't know if my Upper School/High School has debate, or what type of debate/speech they offer

The first thing you should do is find out. You can also email Mike Bietz, the program director for debateLA and the head coach at Harvard-Westlake. 

Even if the program is small or non-existent, there are many opportunities debaters have to participate without having a traditional team. Many debaters, with the permission of their school, will attend tournaments with parents. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, a few of the nation's most successful debaters compete without a traditional team. 

In addition to normal debate tournaments, there are many other debate-related activities that do not require regular team participation: trying-out for Team USA, competing in the International Public Policy Forum, competing in the Ronald Reagan Library Foundation Great Communicator Debate Series, to name a few.

Mr. Bietz will help you figure out how you can continue your debate career. Do not hesitate to contact him at

I never plan on competing in debate or speech

Ironically, this may actually be all the reason you need to participate in a summer debate and speech program. As previously mentioned, communication skills (particularily oral communication, public speaking and argumentation) are being taught less-and-less in schools. Yet, in modern world, these are the skills that can set someone apart. On paper, many people look the same - take all the best classes, get all the good grades. When it comes down to it, how you 1) present yourself, 2) present your ideas, & 3) handle yourself in the face of questions or conflict can be a crucial difference maker. 

Our Public Speaking & Argumentation program will take a real-world approach to communication. We will cover logic, presentation, negotiation, conflict-resolution and many other subjects that are simply under-taught in most schools.

So, How do we choose a program?

We have programs for students at all experience levels. We also have programs for students who have a wide variety of reasons for taking a summer debate program - competitive or not.

Our most recommended session is our two-week flagship. (July 13-24; residential July 12-25).

If you cannot attend that session, our 1-week sessions offer Middle School Debate and Beginner/Intermediate Lincoln-Douglas.

Anyone in grades 5-8 should sign-up for the MSPDP (unless instructed otherwise by a debate coach). MSPDP is the competitive format used by most of the Middle Schools in Los Angeles. It is also the format used in the communications requirement in 8th grade debate at Harvard-Westlake.

If you have done MSPDP and are now entering grades 9-12 (and would like to continue competing in the parliamentary format) you should sign-up for the World Schools program. There are an increasing number of World Schools events in Southern California, and students can try-out for Team USA. This is the format that will be most familiar to anyone who did MSPDP.

If your school has an active Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate or Speech Team and you'd like to compete in those formats, you should register for one of those. 

If your school does not participate Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate or Competitive Speech or if you are not planning on participating in competitive debate/speech you should register for the Public Speaking and Argumentation program.

The reason we recommend the Public Speaking and Argumentation program over other programs for non-competitive debaters is because LD, Policy and Speech are designed specifically for students who plan on competing in those events the following season. They will learn about nuance and strategy specific to competitive debating in that format. Certainly kids who are not planning on doing competing in debate will learn a lot of different stuff, but if the goal is to practice public speaking and argumentation, there would be a lot of stuff that isn’t applicable in the LD, Policy and Speech programs. 

It would be like going football camp to work on running. 

The Public Speaking and Argumentation Program will strip away a lot of the proprietary strategy of the specific competitive activities. 



Top Coaches/Recent Graduates from a few of LA's Top Schools
In addition having the opportunity to work with nation's top debate coaches, Los Angeles locals in younger grades should be particularily interested to work with the debate coaches from Harvard-Westlake, Brentwood & Marlborough Schools.

This is the only program of it's kind in Los Angeles.

In addition to working with top coaches, young debaters will have the opportunity to work with current debaters and recent graduates, who are part of our HW Summer Fellows Program.

Overnight Option

Commuting can be a beast. We offer a residential option for students in grades 7 and up during our 2-Week Flagship. Students will stay at UCLA in their top dorm - DeNeve Hall. Rooms have: private suite-style bathrooms (shared with one other room), in-room climate control (including AC), cable TV, maid service and three meals per day in UCLA's award-winning all-you-can-eat dining facilities. Overnight can be added for only $1000 for 13 nights - including meals.

  • Because 2-Weeks can be roughly the equivilant of a full season of debate
  • Because you have time to learn skills that there is never time to learn during the school year
  • Because, like anything difficult (e.g. playing an instrument or learning a language), going months without consistent and intense activity can nullify most previously earned advancements
  • Because your competition is not taking the summer off

But I don't do competitive debate & speech.

It's ok. We have programs for students who do not plan on competing. But debate & speech training is still important.

Sessions & Programs

July 13-24, 2015

Competitive Debate

  • Lincoln-Douglas Debate (Grades 7-12)
  • Policy Debate (Grades 7-12)
  • World Schools Parliamentary (Grades 8-12)
  • Middle School Public Debate Program (Grades 5-8)

NSDA Speech Events

  • Original Oratory (Grades 8-12)
  • Humorous Interp (Grades 8-12)

General Enrichment

  • Public Speaking & Argumentation (Grades 8-12)

1-Week Sessions in the Middle School Public Debate Program (MSPDP) & Lincoln-Douglas Debate: July 6-10; July 27-31; August 3-7