What to Expect at Debate Camp

Student, Flathead High School

Arguing for the sake of arguing isn’t usually the best way to win friends—unless they’re your besties from debate camp. Here, one camper explains what debate camp is all about and how to prepare for it.

It takes guts to start arguments with people for fun. If you're one of those special people, you might want to consider a debate camp. Two weeks learning how to fine-tune your ability to argue and reason could be just the thing for you!

Knowing how to articulate and defend your point of view is a hugely beneficial skill to have, and that’s what debate camps (and clubs) are all about. As a bonus, most debate camps are affiliated with a university, so you get the chance to live like a college student, eating in the dining hall and sleeping in dorms.

Sound interesting? Here's everything you need to know about debate camp.

Which type of debate is for you?

There are generally three types of debate events: Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum. Depending on your personality, one type may be a better fit than another.

The Lincoln-Douglas debate is the only solo debate event and generally focuses on ethics, morality, and philosophy. The Policy debate is an evidence-centered event wherein partners present a plan regarding the resolution of a global issue. The Public Forum debate is a fast-moving partner debate that centers on domestic and foreign issues and more closely resembles the style of a presidential debate.

You debate camp experience will be exponentially more meaningful and fun if you are debating topics that matter to you, so choose wisely!

What do you pack for debate camp?

Knowing what to pack for debate camp is as important as it is confusing. Here's a sample packing list of items that may come in handy:

  • Legal pads for writing down arguments
  • Notebooks or loose-leaf paper
  • Ballpoint pens
  • Timers
  • A laptop computer

If you forget any debate-related items, no need to worry! The camp should be able to lend you supplies, and even a laptop, at no extra cost.

What’s the daily schedule like?

Every debate camp is a little bit different. However, most will follow a similar schedule so that debaters can learn as much as possible in a short period of time.

6:30 a.m.: Wake up, shower, and get ready for the day ahead.
7:30 a.m.:
Campers meet for a short team-building exercise or pep talk.
8:00 a.m.:
Enjoy a quick breakfast in the campus dining hall.
8:30 a.m.:
Debaters meet in a lecture hall for a brief overview of the day's agenda.
9:00 a.m.:
Campers are split into groups to start creating debate cases and discussing arguments.
12:00 p.m.:
Everyone's favorite time of the day, lunch!
2:00 p.m.:
Campers reconvene for speaking drills and lectures.
6:00 p.m.:
Break for dinner!
7:00 p.m.:
Everyone attends seminars on different aspects of debate and philosophy such as "effective cross examination" or "understanding the social contract theory."
9:30 p.m.:
Campers receive an assignment related to writing a debate case or set of arguments due the next day.
10:00 p.m.:
Work time for homework if you can stay awake!
12:30 a.m.:
Lights out!

All the hard work you do over the two weeks at camp leads up to a grand finale: the tournament. This is a daylong event in the style of a high school debate competition. Debaters are paired against each other for rounds and receive verbal critiques to help boost their skills. Just remember, the coaches may be a bit harsh with verbal criticism, but in the long run they're only trying to help. At the end of the tournament, winners and top speakers receive prizes!

Wait, do you actually do anything fun?

It's important to go into camp understanding that it will be intensive and require hard work. It's a bit different from the average summer or sports camp in that you may not get a dedicated amount of free time. Days will be full and mostly centered on argumentation. Nonetheless, camps will generally give debaters Saturday evening and Sunday morning off. During that time, everyone can relax or go have fun exploring the nearest town.

Is debate camp for you?

If you're a dedicated debater looking for a summer challenge, camp could be perfect for you. The two weeks of practice can prove invaluable over the upcoming competitive season. Remember to research the camp you're interested in as debate style within individual events varies depending on where you live. Remember to have fun and make the most of the opportunity. Most of all, don't start arguments unless you're supposed to.

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