Harvard Law School students hosted 21 high schoolers from the Boston Debate League Tuesday in a day-long seminar designed to help young debaters improve their policy debate skills. Students attended a criminal law class, toured the University, and heard from law school dean Martha L. Minow and a number of law school professors.
Amy H. Bond, a first-year student at HLS who helped organize the event, said she and other law students were inspired to host the seminar after judging the Boston Debate League’s tournament in January. Impressed by the quality of the high school debaters, Bond and her classmates decided to contribute to the Boston Debate League’s mission—bringing debate to students from Boston’s public schools who might not otherwise experience it.
“Historically, policy debate has been a prohibitively expensive activity,” Bond said, outlining common preparations like debate camp, personal coaching, and tournaments out of town. She added that it is nonetheless an important skill that develops analytical reasoning, research acumen, and persuasive rhetoric. Exposure to policy debate is especially valuable because it is directly applicable to the law profession.
During the seminar, students—a number of whom competed at the national debate tournament at Harvard last weekend—attended a mock debate between law school professors Michael J. Klarman and Julie C. Suk ’97 on the role of courts in the civil rights movement. HLS librarians demonstrated how to conduct policy research and students also had an opportunity to hear from law professors Daniel J. Meltzer ’72, Charles J. Ogletree, and Jon D. Hanson.
The debaters also learned about student life and admissions at Harvard from an admissions officer and current undergraduates. Michelle E. Choi ’16, who volunteered at the event, said she and other undergraduates who have benefited from debate hope to share similar opportunities with younger students who do not have access to comparable resources. “As of now, a group of undergrads who did debate want to establish a long-term program to have consistent mentorship for these debaters,” she said.
La Alianza, the Black Law Students Association, and the Dean of Students Office co-sponsored the event. Bond said HLS students may consider making the seminar an annual event.