Speech & Debate
Latin's Upper School speech and debate program offers a range of courses and tournament competition in a variety of speech and debate events.
Students in the speech and debate program develop self confidence and essential verbal communication skills, as well as learn to construct an argument effectively and express a well crafted opinion.
Speech and debate has something for nearly every student – from those who participate in a single event to strengthen their public speaking skills to students who aim to compete at the national level.
Participation in speech and debate develops students' ability to serve as effective leaders and engaged citizens by giving them the tools to think critically and listen effectively.
- Individual Speech Events
- Upper School Program
- State & National Organizations
- Parents' Role
- Tournament Travel & Competition
- Meet the Coach
Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, and Duo Interpretation of Literature: students select a published work prior to competition, cut it to a maximum of 10 minutes in length, then memorize and rehearse this performance piece. These events are ideal for students who enjoy theater, acting, or using artistry to convey important arguments.
Original Oratory: students prepare a 10-minute speech designed to call the audience to action to solve a social problem. Typically, the speech describes the problem’s causes and effects using a mix of factual data and personal stories, and then concludes by offering a solution. Students research, write, memorize, and edit their speeches between tournaments, but deliver the same each round of competition and usually focus on the same topic area for the entire academic year.
Extemporaneous Speaking: calls for students to, before each round of the tournament, draw three current events questions from an envelope, choose one, and then use 30 minutes to prepare a speech of up to seven minutes to craft an answer. The questions require broad command of US and world political events, and speakers must use appropriate evidence from the team’s files prepared before the tournament to justify their arguments.
The speech and debate club holds multiple weekly practices after school, supplemented by frequent office hours for individual coaching and occasional business meetings during the daily activity period. Member students are not required to attend all practices, but must attend regularly in advance of all tournaments for which they choose to register. Between practices, team members complete individual preparation as appropriate for the competition event(s) of their choice.
Introduction to Speech and Debate: In order to become a team member, students who are in their first year of speech and debate competition at the Upper School must enroll in this yearlong elective course. Students will learn basic skills for each of the various speech and debate events including Policy, Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, and Congressional debate as well as Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, and Humorous, Dramatic, and Duo Interpretation. By doing so, students will enhance their abilities in researching and arguing public policy issues, improve as persuasive speakers, and develop their writing and performance skills. In addition to completing in-class assignments in all events, students will choose at least one event to make their focus for tournament competition. Enrollment in the course requires participation in a minimum of two tournaments (generally held on weekends) each semester. The student’s academic GPA will include this course’s grade. There is no prerequisite, and the course is open to grades 9-12.
Advanced Speech: This yearlong course provides intensive tournament preparation for students continuing their participation in Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, or Dramatic, Humorous, and Duo Interpretation as members of the speech and debate team. Enrolled students must attend a minimum of three tournaments each semester in addition to attending the NFL National Qualifying tournament (and if qualified, NFL Nationals) each spring. Students must enroll in this course in order to be eligible for tournaments designated as “national level” travel by the coaching staff. During the class period, students receive individual and group coaching in preparation for upcoming tournaments, while also enjoying limited freedom to use the class for makeup work resulting from tournament absences. The student’s academic GPA will include this course’s grade. Prerequisite: Introduction to Speech and Debate or tournament experience with instructor permission, open to grades 9-12. Students may repeat this course for credit in multiple years.
Advanced Debate: This yearlong course provides intensive tournament preparation for students continuing their participation in Policy, Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, or Congressional debate as members of the speech and debate team. Enrolled students must attend a minimum of three tournaments each semester in addition to attending the NFL National Qualifying tournament (and if qualified, NFL Nationals) each spring. Students must enroll in this course in order to be eligible for tournaments designated as “national level” travel by the coaching staff. During the class period students receive individual and group coaching in preparation for upcoming tournaments, while also enjoying limited freedom to use the class for makeup work resulting from tournament absences. The student’s academic GPA will include this course’s grade. Prerequisite: Introduction to Speech and Debate or tournament experience with instructor permission, open to grades 9-12. Students may repeat this course for credit in multiple years.
Charlotte Latin’s students and coaches participate in a variety of sanctioning bodies that support and govern the high school speech and debate community. Our membership gives shape to our competitive season as many of our students prepare for and attempt to qualify to the various championship tournaments of each organization. Locally, Charlotte Latin is a member of the Tarheel Forensic League (TFL). This league helps to sponsor many of our local tournaments and covers the entire state of North Carolina. Each spring, the TFL sponsors the North Carolina State Championships. Charlotte Latin’s coaches are members of a professional organization known as the National Debate Coaches Association (NDCA). Based on their cumulative results throughout the year, our debaters have the chance to qualify for the NDCA Championships each spring. Charlotte Latin also competes in the Charlotte diocese of the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL), which is open to all schools and hosts a tournament each winter that qualifies the top few students in each event to the NCFL Championships each May. Finally, Charlotte Latin’s students become members of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). This organization serves the dual purpose of functioning as an honor society for speech and debate as well as hosting the final national championship tournament each June.
In 2015, Charlotte Latin was honored with membership in the NSDA's prestigious 200 Club. This award recognizes the School's commitment to teach students essential life skills, including communication, research, listening, writing, and organization skills.
Parents play a critical role as members of Latin's speech and debate team. Many of the tournaments in which the team participates depends upon parents to volunteer as judges. This role provides parents with a great opportunity to see firsthand the types of competition their children are participating in while also giving back to the speech and debate community. Charlotte Latin’s parents are also involved in the life of the team by serving as volunteers for a variety of tournaments and other educational events that the team hosts throughout the year. From time to time, the speech and debate topics create opportunities for parents to share their areas of professional expertise with students.
Each time students attend a tournament they participate in multiple rounds of their speech or debate event. Sometimes tournament schedules are even set up to allow students to enter in more than one event, a practice that is encouraged! After several preliminary rounds, many tournaments advance the students who have accumulated the best results so far to elimination round competition, continuing until a tournament champion is crowned. Almost every tournament is an independent experience, meaning that the results from one tournament do not carry over to the next.
Tournaments come in all shapes and sizes, stretching across the calendar from September to June. Charlotte Latin's students are free to choose the tournaments that best suit their schedules and challenge them at an appropriate level. Many of the tournaments are local and take place on a single weekend day with competition against nearby schools. For the most motivated and successful students, Latin also maintains an ambitious schedule of national invitational tournaments featuring competition against other top speech and debate schools.
Beyond tournaments, the speech and debate program strives to offer additional authentic opportunities for students to engage in meaningful public debate, speaking, and performance. Possibilities include hosting public debates and performance nights as well as working with team members to encourage them to seek out opportunities to become active in political campaigns, to address civic or church groups, and to play in community theater. Doing so leads to further application of the lessons learned in speech and debate. All of these projects serve to strengthen the school-community relationship and instill the value of public service in Latin’s students. Every student enrolled in Advanced Speech or Advanced Debate is required to complete at least one such experience each semester for a grade.
Jonathan Peele joined the Charlotte Latin faculty as Director of Speech and Debate in 2013. As a head Speech and Debate coach since 2002, his students have claimed 11 state championships and 52 qualifications for NSDA Nationals. His students have advanced consistently to the late elimination rounds at major tournaments hosted at universities across the nation including Wake Forest, Yale, Emory, Stanford, Harvard, and UC-Berkeley, as well as the TOC, NCFL, and NSDA Nationals. In 2018 he coached the NSDA national champion in Congressional Debate - Senate, and his teams took NSDA national school of honor or excellence awards in 2005, 2013 and 2018. Peele holds a B.S. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.