In December 2011, I traveled to mainland China for the first time to work with Dipont Education Management (DEM) on the development of debate in China.
In only 7 days in China, I made presentations about the value of debate and the Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops (HDSW) to DEM (Shanghai), the Wuxi No. 1 School (Wuxi), the Nanjing Foreign Language School (Nanjing), the Hangzhou Foreign Language School (Hangzhou), the Shenzhen Foreign Language School (Shenzhen), and the Shanghai World Foreign Languages School.
During that time, we developed a preliminary plan to promote debate in China and began designing an academic debate program for students from China at the HDCSW.
In January 2012, DEM Vice President Jeff Zhu traveled with me to the Montgomery Bell Academy debate tournament in Nashville, TN where Lakeland District Debate students were competing. The MBA tournament is one of the most prestigious in the United States, with only the top two person teams from approximately 55 schools around the United States to participate. MBA itself has a storied history in debate, being the only school to close out the finals of the NFL national tournament. One of its new campus buildings is dedicated to debate education.
Jeff spent his time at the tournament learning all of the details about how debate tournaments operate and he also spent some time watching the most competitive students at the tournament debate one another. He was quite impressed by the level of competition and was even more enthusiastic about developing academic debate in China. While in Nashville, Jeff also met US NFL Director Scott Wunn and began working on a plan to introduce the US NFL to China and to make Chinese students members.
I continued to work with DEM throughout the spring both to design an academic program for Chinese students at the HDCSW and to develop a competitive debate circuit in China. In June of 2012, DEM initiated a training session for more than 100 teachers to support the development of debate in China. To support that training session, I organized four days of debate training for the participants. I recruited Dr. Anand Rao (University of Mary Washington), Dr. Ryan Galloway (Samford University), and Adam Jacobi (National Forensics League) to deliver presentations and to provide hands-on learning for the participants.
In addition to the teachers, the training was attended by Zhou Jianhua, the Executive Vice President of the Society for Cultivating Innovators. He gave a presentation on the value of debate. The Innovation Method Society also supported the training.
In July, 120 students from China’s foreign language schools participated in a special program at the HDCSW.
In the program, the students learned how to debate, the basics of public speaking & argumentation, and also about the topic that they would debate in the coming academic year – Resolved: China should increase its use of nuclear power.
After the program in the US finished, I continued to work with DEM to develop debate in China.
In early August, I recruited four US debate coaches to go and work in China for a year, teaching debate in the English language schools. With the arrival of these experienced teachers to support those at the training, debate really took off in China.
By late November, 17 schools were operating debate classes and more than 1,000 students were enrolled in those courses.
During the first week of November, 90 two person teams (180 students) competed in the first Public Forum debate tournament in China as part of the National Academic High School Debate Tournament Series.
The Nanjing Foreign Language School defeated the Wuxi No. 1 School in the finals.
And Dipont’s relationship with the NFL continued. In the fall of 2012, seventeen schools in China registered to become members of the NFL and DEM committed to recruiting at least 1,000 Chinese students to join the US NFL this year and 4,000 per year within three years.
In the spring of 2013, DEM continued to recruit students to attend the Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops and to grow the number of debating opportunities for students. By the end of May, 2013, more than two thousand students had debated in Dipont’s debate program. In June of 2013, 20 students from China will be participating in the US NFL tournament. 115 students attended the July 2013 Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops.
In September 2013, Dipont Education Management, in cooperation with the US National Forensic League, hosted the first championship tournament. Sixty two-person teams competed in the English language division and 30 teams competed in the Chinese language division.
Video slideshow of the tournament:
You can read more about the tournament here.
A textbook that was produced by the US NFL and the Harvard Debate Council was also released.
Dipont has also launched debate classes in its new ENREACH learning centers.
Debates continued throughout the fall in China, with more than 1, 500 students participating. In February, 2014, approximately 100 students traveled to the United States and competed in tournaments at Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley.
The students from China closed out the finals of the Harvard Debate Council International Public Forum Championship.
More than 1,000 students from China have joined the US National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA, formerly NFL).
In the Spring of 2014, another series of tournaments were held in China, with close to 300 participants debating in each tournament.
I took some of my own high school students from the Lakeland School District to compete in the Hangzhou tournament (April 2014).
In June of 2014, 20 teams (40 students) participated in the US National Speech and Debate Association (NFL) tournament
In July, 2014, 102 students again participated in the Harvard Debate Council Summer workshops.