The English-Speaking Union

Middle School Debate

New York Debate League

Welcome to the
New York Debate League!


2021-2022 School Year

TOURNAMENT schedule 
  • Novice Debate Workshop October 2, 2021 (Virtual) 
  • November 6, 2021 (Virtual) 
  • December 4, 2021 (Virtual)
  • January 22, 2022 (Virtual)
  • March 5, 2022 (Virtual)
  • Championship Debate: April 30th at The Dalton School

Topics for the April 30th Championship Tournament: 

  • Children under 14 should not use smartphones.

    • The United States should implement compulsory voting in general elections.
    • Sanctions do more harm than good
    • Abolish the Olympic Games
    • Schools should have cameras in classrooms.

Topics for March 5 Tournament: 

  • Topics for January 22nd Tournament: 

    • Ban plea bargains.
    • Schools should not give grade
    • This house supports the death penalty (Varsity Only)

Topics for January 22nd Tournament: 

  • This house supports genetic engineering of human embryos

  • This house prefers a world in which national secession is widely permitted.

Varsity-only Topic:

  • Ban Plea Bargains

2021 New York Debate League Championship

We are so proud of all our schools and students for participating in this year's program! Congratulations to the ESU NYDL Middle School Debate team from The Dalton School in New York City for winning the 2021 Middle School Debate Championship, and to all of this year's participants. Read more about this year's season.


    • New Topics
      1. The US should not develop or use lethal autonomous weapons.

      2. Dysfunctional democracy is better than benevolent dictatorship.

      3. Overall, private schools do more good than harm.

      4. Pandemic lockdowns have done more good than harm.

      Returning Topics
      1. US citizens should be required to complete two years of national service
      2. The two-party system is bad for American democracy
      3. There should be no required subjects in high school
      4. Museums and galleries should display works of art anonymously
      5. The US should implement a UBI
      6. Abolish the senate
      7. Countries responsible for the greatest share of greenhouse gas emissions should pay reparations to the countries most threatened by climate change.
Can you host a debate at your school during the 2021/2022 season? Email us at

  • British International School of New York
  • City and Country School
  • Dwight School
  • East New York Middle School of Excellence
  • Ethical Culture Fieldston
  • Garden School
  • Hackley School
  • Harvey School
  • Hoboken Charter School
  • IS 220
  • LREI
  • NEST +m
  • Nightingale-Bamford School
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel
  • School for Global Leaders
  • Speyer Legacy School
  • The Anderson School
  • The Dalton School
  • The Island School (PS/MS 188)
  • The School at Columbia University
  • Transfiguration School
  • United Nations International School
  • Unity Preparatory Charter School
  • West End Secondary School 

Debate Team from the Hackley School wins 2016 English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Championship Tournament

NATIONAL NEWS – posted May 1, 2016

The Hackley School, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Kiri Fitzpatrick, Hannah Ostfield, Alex Goldman

The English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Program capped off a successful fifth year with its annual Championship Tournament, which took place at Stone Bridge Middle School in Allentown, NJ, on April 16, 2016.  All six ESU Middle School Debate Program leagues participated bringing together 250 debaters from 29 schools from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. 

The English-Speaking Union Middle School Debate Program teaches the fundamentals of argumentation and debate to students in grades 5-8. Established in 2011, the program now includes three ESU-sponsored leagues in New York, two in New Jersey and one in Washington, DC.  Some 50 public, private, parochial and charter schools participate in the program, engaging more than 1,000 teenagers annually in weekly after-school debate activities designed to develop and hone student's public speaking, critical thinking, listening and debating skills.

Read Full Story

The New York Times features ESU Middle School Debate

The ESU is pleased to share today's The New York Times article, "A Diverse Mix of Pupils, Learning Civilized Dissent," featuring the ESU Middle School Debate program's New York Debate League. Now in its fourth year, the program, designed to help young adolescents develop critical thinking and language arts skills through public speaking, has reached more than 2,300 students in grades 5 to 8 in New York and New Jersey. There are nearly 900 individual debates through this program annually.

The article underscores one of the Middle School Debate program's strengths—bringing together students from various backgrounds that, as Brianna Scott (a seventh grader at Success Academy Harlem West) says, "prepare[s] you to go out into the world."

Read the article here