Binghamton University to host international online debate tournament

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From Binghamton University:

BINGHAMTON, NY – The Speech and Debate Team at Binghamton University, State University of New York will host a free international online debate tournament for students in grades 3-5 and 6-12. Registration goes until June 27 and speeches start June 29.

The tournament takes place asynchronously with students uploading one video a day, Monday through Friday, which will then be judged over the weekend. The top three competitors in each division will be mailed a trophy and will have a donation made in their honor to a nonprofit of their choice: $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place. The topic for this tournament is criminal justice reform. 

“Students should participate in the online tournament because it gives them the opportunity to debate against kids from around the world about criminal justice reform. This allows students to interact with their peers from across the globe while advancing their knowledge on important policy considerations,” said Joseph Leeson-Schatz, director of speech and debate at Binghamton University.”

Students who participate get to form global connections to their peers, receive feedback from instructors around the world, and will be able to test their research and argumentative skills in a competitive debate format for free, said Leeson-Schatz. Students who participate will enhance their public speaking and listening skills, as well as will become better critical thinkers ready to respond to the growing problems this word faces.

The Speech and Debate Team held an online tournament in May. There were a total of 23 competitors in the grades 3-5 division and 67 competitors in the grades 6-12 division. 

“It was really impressive watching students with no debate knowledge on week one become great debaters by the third week of competition,” said Leeson-Schartz. “Their growth was truly amazing. I received several emails from parents saying about how their kids were spending two or three hours a day working on their speeches and that by the end they became totally hooked on debate. In fact, the reason why we’re offering a second online tournament so close to the one we just hosted was because of the outpouring of support and interest for it from the kids and students who participated.”

Emme Davis from Harrisonburg, Va., went undefeated in the tournament and is making a $100 donation to The Mercy House. She debated about whether or not kids should have homework, whether or not kids should share their Halloween candy with their parents, whether laptops should be used in the classroom and whether kids should set their own bedtimes. 

“My favorite was whether kids should set their own bedtimes because it got me to think about bedtimes in a different way than I usually do,” said Emme. “It was fun and exciting because it helped me learn how to make good arguments. I enjoyed debating other people because it was challenging and it was interesting to hear what arguments they came up with.”

Emme’s father, Mike Davis, thought the tournament was a wonderful way to push her academically during a time when kids are at home.

“Watching her research and construct her speeches was really impressive, and it was obvious that the students she debated against were thinking at a level way above the typical elementary school student,” said Mike.

Binghamton University alumnus Peter W. Beadle ’93 judged students in grades 6-12 from several countries, including the Dominican Republic, India, Japan, and the Philippines, in addition to the US. He believes that the tournament allows students to tackle difficult issues in an ever-changing world.

“We face a lot of challenges in this complex, fast moving, social-media-driven world,” said Beadle. “The ways and speed at which we communicate with each other, and the many ways that disinformation can spread, make it essential that we each be able to think critically about the information we are viewing and the opinions that we then form and share with our communities and the world. There really are not that many opportunities to learn and practice those skills. In my experience, debate has been one of the best ways to accomplish this and I strongly recommend seizing every opportunity that comes along.”Preliminary rounds will run for three weeks, followed by elimination rounds for the top competitors. For more information and to sign up, visit or email

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