The English-Speaking Union

Middle School Public Debate Program

ESU New York Debate League

Welcome to the
ESU New York Debate League!


2023-2024 School Year

TOURNAMENT schedule 
  • Novice Debaters Workshop & Scimmage Oct 14, 2023 at City & Country School 
  • November 4 at Nightingale-Bamford School
  • December 2, 2023 at Dalton School
  • January 20, 2024 at Tuckahoe School
  • March 2, 2024 at Ethical Culture Fieldston School 
  • April 27, 2024 Championship Debate at Speyer School

Can you host a debate at your school during the 2023-24 season? Email us at

2022-23 Season Topics 

April 29th Championship Tournament

  • Ban Hate Speech
  • Streaming services are bad for music
  • Parents should be able to control the curricular content of their children's schools.
  • Genetically-modified plants are more beneficial than harmful to the environment
  • Give the Black Hills back to the Sioux Nation

March 4th Tournament:

    • This house prefers a world in which AI is smarter than humans
    • Ban Hate Speech
    • Earth should be governed by a single-world government. (Varsity only)

January 21st Tournament:

  • Parents should be able to control the curricular content of their children's schools.

    Streaming services are bad for music.

    Varsity Only
    The United States should implement a flat tax (varsity only)

December 3rd Tournament:

Novice and Varsity

    • Eliminate high school football

      This house celebrates the rise of telehealth

      Varsity Only
      Amazon does more harm than good.

November 5th Tournament:

Novice and Varsity

    • Captive live animal displays (such as zoos and aquariums) do more harm than good.

      Television is a bad influence.

      Varsity Only
      This house believes that America should have a four-day work week.

Topics from the April 30th, 2022 Championship Tournament Were: 

  • 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.

Some of the Topics Debated during  the 2021-2022 Season Were:

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

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

  • Ban Plea Bargains (Varsity Only)

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.

  • British International School of New York
  • Blessed Sacrament School
  • 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
  • Legacy International Online High School
  • LREI
  • NEST +m
  • Nightingale-Bamford School
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel
  • Rachel Carson Middle School
  • 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
  • Tuckahoe Middle 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