Speech & Debate

Most participants in Speech and Debate would agree that it is one of the most intellectually challenging, fun activities to participate in. Students prepare for and compete at local tournaments that are hosted by the National Speech and Debate Association. In this process, students put to use all the skills they acquire at Sage Ridge: they research, organize, and present arguments for both sides of important, real-world issues. Students learn quickly how to present themselves with confidence, and they gain the invaluable ability to think on their feet and control their thoughts even as they are being cross-examined. Besides the numerous skills they gain, they also join a unique, cohesive community that values camaraderie and support at the same level it values competition. 

At Sage Ridge, the Speech and Debate team has a unique flexible structure. Students do not need to commit for the entire year, or even a season, but gain activity credit based on the number of tournaments they choose to attend:
•    Participating in three tournaments = one season of activity credit
•    Participating in four tournaments = two seasons of activity credit
•    Participating in five tournaments = three seasons of activity credit

So to “join debate,” students need to simply check the debate calendar, see what tournaments they can commit to, and then communicate with the debate coach about preparing to compete.

The “speech” side of “speech and debate” includes events such as extemporaneous speaking, poetry reading, dramatic monologues, humorous interpretation, storytelling, and original oratory, to name a few. At local tournaments, these events are typically held on Fridays. Students may elect to compete in speech events, debate events, or both. 

The “debate” side of “speech and debate” consists of five varieties.

Speech & Debate News

Styles of Debate

Public Forum

Public Forum Debate presents debaters with timely issues from the news (“Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms”). Topics change monthly. This is a partner debate that is a short format (usually 45 minutes) and so is often a good event to start with.

Lincoln Douglas

Lincoln Douglas Debate revolves around contemporary value judgments. Topics change every two months. This is an individual event that runs longer than PF and stresses philosophical assertions as well as those based on research. Sample topic: “Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.”


Policy Debate allows debaters to present new policy plans in the United States government (“Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States”). Only one topic is debated for the year. This is a partner event. Policy debate has the longest and most challenging format, and it also requires the most specialized knowledge of any other form.


Congressional Debate, which simulates the United States Congress. Students become representatives who support, oppose, or add further discussion on a range of legislative bills.

Big Question

 In Big Question Debate, opposing contestants debate a topic concerning the intersection of science, philosophy, and religion (Sample topic: “Resolved: Objective morality exists”). Topics will address deeply held beliefs that often go unexamined. Students can compete as individuals or as a team; this means rounds can be 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, or 1 vs. 2.