[notification type=”alert-info” title=”Power of Debate Part 2″]Debate and Confidence[/notification]

I have quite literally spent the last five years of my life devoted to debate. In fact, devoted is probably an understatement. My life was and is debate. Both those looking to understand debate and those looking to question my addiction often ask me, what does debate offer me? That seems to be the hardest question I face, not because I don’t have an answer, but because the time allotted to answer the question is never enough.

Little Priten

I started debate as a 9th grade student as a way to expand my schedule to include more classes. If only I could go back and wholeheartedly thank that 12-year old Priten, who selected debate when the high school guidance counselors came around to the middle school for scheduling. If only every student had the greatest opportunity offered to a high school student. If only, I could answer that tough question.

My first tournament was an interesting one. We didn’t have a winning record but I was still highly inspired to keep going in the activity. Why? The activity was like none other. I definitely had no idea know then, but that one tournament laid the bedrock for so much more.

High School Debate

The next four years I spent all my free time, and often time I was supposed to be spending on other things, working on debate. I sacrificed sleep, studying, weekends, and entire summers for debate. My freshmen year I attended the Spartan Debate Institute, and it was my first time away from home for that long. It was an emotionally hard four weeks, but I kept going. The next two summers were easier, but still hard on someone who grew up in a protected environment. Stanford National Forensic Institute and Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops played huge roles in my growth as a debater, and as an individual.

Throughout high school, I debated around 250 rounds, and judged at another hundred or so. This ended up totaling around 15 weekends a year, with countless others devoted to preparation. In other words, debate was my life. As a sophomore, I started to take on some responsibilities of team captain. I loved debate so much, and I wanted to make sure that those who were joining our team had a peer to help them out. By the time I became a senior, I was helping teach the new students, running our team website, and assisting with the hosting of our annual tournament. I just couldn’t do enough for me to feel like I was sufficiently giving back what I was getting from the activity.

During senior year, I had my first experience with international debate students when my debate partner, Mihir P., and I attended the South Korean Winter Championship. There, we were blown away by the skill and work ethic that the students put in to debate. As if my own four years in the activity had not already made it clear, I knew then that debaters would be the next wave global leaders and that debaters would be at the forefront of future innovation.

Gap Year

After I got into college, and finished up my high school debate career at the Tournament of Champions, I had my entire gap year to do whatever I wanted. So, debate.

I started off my gap year teaching at the Harvard International Public Forum Camp and helping edit the textbook that the Chinese National Speech and Debate Association uses in its classrooms. I then spent 2 ½ months in South Korea working with ESL students and NFL-Korea to expand debate there. In those first, few, short months of my gap year, I learned a lot more than I taught, as I was exposed to new forms of debate and international education culture. Debate only drew me in more as I met more and more debate students from around the world.

Once I returned home from Korea, I spent the rest of my gap year helping out with the Lakeland District Debate Team. I loved to see students, who were in the same spot I was when I started, develop the same passion I had. I had the privilege of traveling to countless tournaments with them and seeing some of the best results we’ve had as a team in years.

In this time, I also worked on setting up the Teach to Learn Debate Committee to expand access to debate through the use of scholarships and micro-grants. If I was to truly put two of my strongest beliefs that education is the most fundamental human right and that debate is the best tool for modern educators to practice, the creation of this committee was inevitable. I now have the pleasure of working with some of the top debate educators from across the country to ensure that the activity doesn’t disadvantage someone on the basis of socio-economic status.

Near the end of my gap year, I visited China with the Lakeland District Debate Team, where we visited various schools and did demonstration debates. Seeing debate in yet another country, made me realize that debate is the most universal educational tool. It also became clear that being a student of debate was my greatest privilege. My combined 5 years in the community that I now like to call home have made me realize that for 21st century students, debate is not just a luxury, but in fact a necessary prerequisite for success. In the upcoming posts, I will explain the vast power that debate can wield over a student’s development.