1. What is the Youth Debate Bowl?

The Youth Debate Bowl is an annual hybrid competition sponsored by Gallaudet University through its Youth Programs office and the Center of Democracy for Deaf America (CDDA).

2. When and why was it established?

The Youth Debate Bowl was established in 2021 to address the need to foster critical thinking and public speaking skills; healthy democratic skills and habits; promote a spirit of academic competition and good sportsmanship; and encourage social opportunities and collegiality among students.

3. What is the format of the Youth Debate Bowl?

There are three stages to the Youth Debate Bowl.

Qualifying Stage: This stage will consist of all participating students submitting their 3 to 5 minute presentation videos on a pre-assigned topic. Judges will select the top 8 students from both high school and middle school age groups based on the rubric found in the Rules and Guidelines manual.

Quarterfinals/Semifinals Stage: This stage will consist of the top 8 students from both high school and middle school age groups competing in head to head debates using the procedures outlined in the Rules and Guidelines manual.

Finals Stage: This stage will consist of the top 2 students from both high school and middle school age groups competing in head to head debates at Gallaudet University in person(if conditions allow for it).

4. What will a head to head debate look like?

We follow the procedures used in the Great Communicator Debate Series which includes the following:

  • Affirmative/Negative Opening
  • Affirmative/Negative Rebuttal
  • Crossfire
  • Judges' Questions
  • Affirmative/Negative Closing

During the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, debaters will meet the moderator and judges on Zoom and debate virtually.

During the Finals, debaters will debate live on stage at Gallaudet University in front of a live audience.

5. I'd like to learn more about how I can participate successfully in the Youth Debate Bowl. How do I learn more?

We will hold two Youth Debate Bowl orientation sessions for those who want to learn more about this new event. For the 2021-2022 school year, the orientation sessions will take place on November 2 and November 17. During those orientation sessions, participants will be able to learn more about the competition and how to prepare for each stage with help from actual Gallaudet Debate team members.

6. Who can participate?

The Youth Debate Bowl is open to all individual middle school (Grades 6-8) and high school (Grades 9-12) students. Students from mainstream programs, Deaf schools, and even homeschool programs are welcome to participate.

7. How many students are allowed to participate?

Students are welcome to submit a qualification video to attempt to qualify for the Quarterfinals. The judges will select the top 8 middle school and the top 8 high school students to advance to the Quarterfinals. We have no limit on how many students can submit a qualification video.

8. Is there any expense to participate in the Youth Debate Bowl?

No! It costs nothing to submit a qualification video. The High School and Middle School finalists will be given an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Finals at Gallaudet University.