The extraordinary value of school speech and debate programs


This week, Wenatchee High School assistant debate coach Brian Higgins and junior Serena Fitzgerald stopped by to talk about the team’s upcoming trips to state. They’ll head to the University of Puget Sound this weekend for individual events, followed by team events the following weekend.

Listening to Serena rave about her experience with this program, you can see why talented and ambitious students sign up for debate. “I’ve gained an education that has allowed me to look at the world in different ways,” said Fitzgerald.

“It’s a fantastic educational value,” she continued. “The research I do for debate improves my understanding of economics, politics and philosophy…. it’s made me a better speaker and writer.” Fitzgerald spends a couple of hours a night preparing for competitions — more time, she says, than the rest of her other homework.

Her eyes light up when she talks about the challenge of preparing for competition, testing her skills and knowledge against other talented students and learning about issues and events that have helped her understand the world in a more thoughtful and comprehensive manner. Here’s an example of a student who is engaged in learning and what she’s acquiring is relevant.

I had no idea about the number of events that are involved, from original oratory and persuasive speech to much more technical debates on current issues.

Higgins said it is a very talented team and if the underclassmen turn out again next year, 2015 should be an exceptionally good year for the program. A gifted group of 8th graders who have been successful in debate and speech in middle school are on the way to Wenatchee High.

There are many great programs at local schools and it was helpful to gain a little bit of understanding about the value that speech and debate adds to the student experience. Parents and volunteers are a crucial part of the program because they are required to serve as judges so the kids can compete.

If you’d like to see my video interview with Fitzgerald and Higgins, please log onto and click on videos.