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Hunter College Middle School Sweeps Top Awards at National Debate Tournament

Hunter College Middle School debate teams won the top awards at the Middle School Public Debate Program National Championship Tournament hosted by Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA on April 20th.

"The Hunter community applauds the students who participate in our excellent middle school debate program, and congratulates those Hunter students who now can be called the best middle school parliamentary debaters in the country," said Randy Collins, Director of the Hunter College Campus Schools in Manhattan.  "We also thank our excellent coaches and the parents who enabled these successes."  

The Claremont McKenna Middle School Public Debate Program (MSPDP) hosts the largest middle school tournament in the country, bringing together the top 80 teams from 50 schools around the country. These schools are selected from more than 300 participating schools including schools from Alaska, New Orleans, California, Washington DC and New Jersey. Coached by Maria Williams and Ben Crossan, Hunter fielded four three-person teams: 8th graders Lizzie McCord, David Maluf and Kaley Pillinger (1st place); 8th graders Arthur Lowenstein, Joshua Moriarty and Emily Tran (2nd place); 8th graders Georgeanne Dinan, Gemma Sack and Nina Potischman (3rd place); and 6th graders Marin Silverman, Hannah Oblak and Maddy Cheshire.  (See photo link and caption below) Hunter teams won first, second and third place, and were the only teams to be undefeated, each winning all five of their debate rounds.  This is the first time in the 11 years of the program a school has swept the top three places.

  • Hunter's first place team won the Grand Final round, arguing against the proposition that "The U.S. President should have the authority to execute American citizens without judicial oversight."
  • Eighth grader Joshua Moriarty, a speaker on Hunter's second place team, took the Golden Gavel Top Individual Speaker award (based on highest speaker points).
  • Hunter also won "Best in League" (New York Debate League), and Individual speaker awards went to 8th graders Kaley Pillinger (8th place) and David Maluf (18th place) and to 6th graders Hannah Oblak (21st) Maddy Cheshire (34th)

"Hunter's accomplishment is extraordinary. Out of thousands of students participating in the program this year across the country, their outstanding young debaters accomplished something no other school has ever done," said Kate Shuster, Ph.D., founder and co-director of the MSPDP.  "Not only did they show an audience of hundreds that middle school students can debate serious issues better than most politicians, but they set an example for future generations of middle school debaters. This is the first time in eleven years that New York has won the tournament, and we expect great things from these exceptional young students."

The MSPDP debate format is a modified parliamentary debate style, with two teams (proposition and opposition) of three students, each of whom perform a specific role in the debate.  Topics are selected several weeks in advance. The 2013 tournament topics were:

  • The United States should establish a living wage for its workers.
  • The US Postal Service should continue Saturday mail deliveries.
  • The international community should ban nuclear-powered spacecraft.
  • Stop-and-frisk does more good than harm.
  • Wrestling should not be an Olympic sport
  • The U.S. President should have the authority to execute American citizens without judicial oversight.

The Hunter College Middle School participated as part of the New York Debate League, a collaboration between the English-Speaking Union and Claremont McKenna College.

Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School are part of Hunter College, City University of New York.  The campus schools incorporate grades K-12.

Hunter College Middle School Debate Team
L-R: Marin Silverman, Maria Williams (Coach), Hannah Oblak, Gemma Sack, Georgeanne Dinan, Arthur Lowenstein, Lizzie McCord, Emily Tran, Ben Crossan (Coach), Kaley Pillinger, Nina Potischman, David Maluf, Joshua Moriarty, and Maddy Cheshire
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