WSU debate team offers camp for high school students


Student debaters receive coaching at the WSU debate camp.

Carter Mullen first learned about school debate competition from a friend during his middle school years.

“Whenever I would spend time with him, he would tell me stories about debate and how much fun he was having,” Mullen said. “Once I got into the activity, I realized it was not what I thought it was—but that wasn’t a bad thing.”

Mullen is among about 45 high school students from the Wichita area attending a debate camp at Wichita State this week led by current and former WSU debate team members. He is a Maize High School junior.

The four-day workshop involves lectures, working in small groups and practicing drills. Students learn about the general parts of debate—disadvantages, topicality, counterplans, critiques and more— and arguments specific to this year’s topic involving Latin America.

Students will debate both sides of the resolution that the United States should increase economic engagement with Mexico, Cuba and/or Venezuela.

“It seems like Latin America is going to be an interesting topic. It’s got a lot of controversy,” Mullen said. “There are a lot of countries that have different opinions about the U.S. and different ways we can engage them. It should be pretty educational.”

Mullen said he hopes the debate skills he learns will help him get accepted into a good college and with his future career.

Brian Box, a former WSU assistant debate coach, is helping lead the camp. He said this camp helps students succeed.

“It sets them up to do better in the season. I know that for a fact,” Box said. Box said that previous attendees have qualified for nationals, as well as won the state-level competition and the Debate Coaches’ Invitational.

Box’s college debate career included finishing as the top speaker at the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament and finishing in the top eight of the National Debate Tournament. He is leading labs alongside other successful debaters.

Their talent encouraged Mullen to attend camp at WSU this year. He said people don’t necessarily realize the quality of the camp.

“They look at the price and think it’s not that great—but you certainly get a lot of value for your $25,” Mullen said. “It’s well worth it.”

A similar camp, the Central Oklahoma Debate Institute, costs $500.

“The mission is to provide a debate camp to everyone who wants to learn and get better at debate. The camp is only $25 – we’re not making any money on it whatsoever,” Box said. “It’s accessible for people to come and learn about debate from people who know something about it.”

Box debated at WSU, and has five years of experience coaching high school debate.

“It’s personally rewarding because I get to see the hard work I put in pay off when the teams do well,” Box said. “It’s great to see a kid who worked hard get better or enjoy their time in debate.”

Box also said the benefits of the activity extend to coaches and students.

“It teaches them to think critically and to be able to objectively analyze both sides of an important position,” Box said. “It gives kids a voice. They can be heard and say whatever they want to say. It provides a home for people. It taught me everything I know.”