Why Policy Debate?

Every student that wants this opportunity should have access to it.

LAMDL was founded in 2007 with four Los Angeles public schools. Today LAMDL is the policy debate portal to 30 high schools, serving more than 650 students per year with a goal to serve over 1,000 students from 50 schools by 2023.

We are committed to restore access to competitive policy debate throughout LA's most underserved public schools.

Our program consists of several elements:

  • We recruit, develop and train teachers to serve as debate coaches.
  • We organize and host recruitment events to attract students.
  • We develop debate curriculum.
  • We staff and host ten league debate tournaments annually.
  • We provide sponsorship and mentorship for students to compete at the highest level national tournaments.
  • We offer a week long summer debate workshop at the University of Southern California.
  • We offer a college readiness seminar.
  • We partner with a number of prominent universities to connect our students to collegiate debate.

Our students compete in the annual National Association for Urban Debate Leagues' Championship Tournament.

For many, an argument is a verbal exchange they would prefer to forget, but for us it is so much more.

Policy debate is a speech competition in which teams comprised of two students, advocate for and against a resolution that typically calls for policy change by the United States federal government on an issue of national importance.

Policy debate is one of the most rigorous academic activities a student can participate in. It combines literary analysis, research critical thinking, public speaking, organization, and advocacy. In order to prepare for competition, students spend hundreds of hours each season reading news articles and scholarly journals as well as rehearsing their presentations. Debate helps develop the most critical skills and confidence to succeed in college and beyond.

We harness the energy found in competitive team sports to inspire rigorous self-directed learning.

Many LA public school students are not receiving academic enrichment outside of the classroom that is so essential to their success inside of it. Students have no or limited access to the academic extracurricular activities that were once ubiquitous in their schools. Enter LAMDL, we grant students an opportunity that is often afforded to well-resourced schools. What is most encouraging is that debate inspires a broad range of students.

Debaters come from across the academic spectrum, including those who are struggling in the classroom. Debate offers a range of learning opportunities to a wide variety of students, from those already highly achieving to those academically off-track and at risk of losing their way. More than any other activity, competitive debate can engage students in their own education, foster their motivation, and enhance the skills that they need to succeed in high school, college, and beyond. Debate is a positive justification for students to flex their intellectual muscle. In essence, LAMDL harnesses the energy of competitive team sports in complex policy debate. We harness the thrill of competition to inspire rigorous self-directed learning.

Eliminating Non-Academic Barriers to Success

Debate equips students to resolve conflict appropriately and offers an individualized, empowering, and student-centered learning model that engages students who may not be thriving in a traditional classroom. It fosters relationships between students and their teachers and among students who have the common goal of succeeding academically. Many debaters view their team as their family and receive some of the emotional support they are not getting elsewhere. Instead of turning to gangs for a developed sense of identity, students turn to their debate families and their school. Simply put, debate gives our students many reasons to keep coming to school.

"Debate has given me a wonderful foundation that I can now expand and work on in college. It has been a powerful aid in my first semester at Cal."

Elanor SkladmanLAMDL Alumni & Current UC Berkeley Undergraduate