You, Too, Can Start a Debate Club
By: Ray Engle

Have you ever thought, “I wish debate was available in my area for my high school student?” It doesn’t take much; you can start a debate club in your area.

 I have enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with homeschool debate for the past nine years, each of which has benefited our academic program and our family in a variety of ways. Along the way I have spoken with a number of people who wished debate was available in their area, but since it was not they felt like it was not possible for their family to participate. Christian Communicators Northwest (CCNW), a debate league specifically for Christian homeschool families in Oregon and Washington, wants to let families know that it is possible to start a debate club in their area, even if they have no prior experience in debate. All that it takes is a few resources and a bit of bravery. The following are excellent resources:

·        “An Introduction to Argumentation & Debate”, by Christy Shipe. This 100-page book is a student text written at a very basic, introductory level with the intent of providing students with the essentials necessary for being prepared to participate in debate events. It is available from HSLDA.

·        “It Takes a Parent…”, by Deanna Stollar. This is a comprehensive teachers manual written to work with “Shipe” (above). It includes fully scripted lectures that simply need to be read by the instructor, class handouts, in-class exercises, detailed homework assignments and quizzes. It is available from Antithesis Debate Publications (a Stollar family enterprise) which can be contacted at

·        Salem Debate Club Introduction to Debate Lecture Notes. Our family learned debate from the Stollars in their 1999 class in Eugene. In order to start the Salem Debate Club I developed my own class modeled after theirs, and wrote my own lecture notes along the way. “It Takes a Parent” was written a couple of years later, and would have saved me a lot of work if it had been available. However, I have continued to refine my teaching notes based on my experiences. They are not as detailed as “It Takes a Parent,” but for those who are interested they might be helpful as a supplement. The price is right as I email them at no cost to anyone who is interested and sends me a note at

·        “Coaching Policy Debate”, by Terry, Deanna and Ryan Stollar. This text complements “It Takes a Parent”. Through “Shipe” and “It Takes a Parent” the students learn how to prepare for and participate in debate. “Coaching Policy Debate” provides useful guidance in forming and running a debate club. It is also available through Antithesis Debate Publications at 

As for the bravery part, looking to pioneers is often a good place to start. Two years ago I received an email that ran along the lines of “There is no debate in my area. I want to start something. What do I do?” I replied with the resource information listed above, and that same year the Whole Heart Debate Club from Corvallis joined CCNW in our events. A short write up about their experience is available on the CCNW web site at, under the link for “Getting Started.”

 As an additional aid or safety net for anyone thinking about starting a new debate club in their area, CCNW is planning some fall workshops to complement new “Introduction to Debate” classes you may be starting. These are not mandatory. They are being made available to teachers, parents, and students who are doing “Introduction to Debate” courses in their area, are unfamiliar with debate and would like some check points along their way through the class. The classes will be about 2-3 hours long on a Saturday afternoon in Salem. There will likely be a nominal cost of around $5 per student, with instructors and parents free.

·        Pre-Class Overview. This will be in mid-September and provide a complete overview of debate. The idea is to get students familiar with the topics that will be covered in class.

·        Mid-Class Review. This will be in mid-late October and address material covered in the first half of “Introduction to Debate” courses.

·        Class Summary and Debate Season Kick-off. This will consist of a comprehensive class overview plus an introduction for the debate topic for the 2008-2009 debate year. The topic will be announced on the 1st Saturday in November, and this will give everyone a chance to get a start on what is and what is not intended within the new topic.

For information on the classes, contact me at You too can start a debate club in your area. If you have been wanting one, there is no time like the present. CCNW would love to have you jump in and join us. To learn more about CCNW debate please visit our web site, (You might just find contact information about others in your area looking to start a debate club.) If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me at  

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