On May 29th the facts flew back and forth between two teams vying to become the 2015 English-Speaking Union Middle School Public Debate Program National Champions. The heated 28-minute debate was held at the Morgan Library & Museum between the East Coast Champions, Philip Bonanno, Robert Patterson, and Tucker Wilke, from The Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, and the West Coast Champions, Jenna Dyer, Michael Sherlock, and Tyler Wong, from the Pegasus School in Huntington Beach, California.
In front of a panel of three judges and nearly 150 spectators, the Hackley School team successfully argued in favor of the proposition: The United States should abolish the death penalty. The judging panel included John Meany, Director of Forensics at Claremont McKenna College, Ann Murdoch, educator and debate coach from Rumson Country Day School in New Jersey, and Elliott Goodman, teacher and debate coach from New York City.
Students from the New York, Garden State, and Orange County Debate Leagues also participated in showcase debates prior to the National Championship on the topic, "The United States should establish an online right to be forgotten."
The National Championship Debate took place in conjunction with the Morgan Library & Museum's exhibition Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation. Prior to the debates all students examined original Civil War-era documents for arguments to use in the debates. Both the Hackley and Pegasus teams incorporated Abraham Lincoln's 19th century words as evidence into their contemporary arguments on the death penalty.
The Middle School Public Debate Program is the world's largest program for classroom and contest debating for middle school students, designed to teach public speaking, critical thinking, listening and debating. The English-Speaking Union works with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members to form debating leagues and classroom oral literacy initiatives. Currently the ESU sponsors debate leagues in New York and New Jersey.