Socrates Forevah

High schoolers sharpen debate skills at Old Parkland Dallas tournament

High schoolers sharpen debate skills at Old Parkland Dallas tournament

Old Parkland debate room
Old Parkland's Debate Chamber was made to debate big topics. Photo courtesy of Old Parkland

The great debate will go down when high school and college students from around the world come to Dallas compete in an annual debating tournament at the Old Parkland campus February 8-9.

The sixth annual Old Parkland Debate Tournament is a two-day event with a college exhibition debate and a high school tournament. Old Parkland Debate Tournament is a nonprofit created to foster education, discussion, and debate of critical issues.

High school students from Argentina, Canada, and England will debate teams from New York, Washington DC, and Dallas; the two local teams are from Greenhill and Hockaday.

Princeton and Yale will open the tournament with an exhibition debate on February 8 in Old Parkland's Debate Chamber. Showing the high school kids how it's done. Emcee will be Lee Jackson, retired University of North Texas Chancellor. 

The issues being debated range from first strikes against North Korea nuclear facilities, to anonymous social networking accounts being banned, to free speech including unpopular speech, to political extremism hurting democratic values.

The Old Parkland Debate Tournament organization was founded in 2012 and hosted its inaugural tournament in 2013. It underwrites all travel and other expenses for the teams and their coaches to come to Dallas.

Harlan Crow, chairman and CEO of Crow Holdings, which owns the Old Parkland complex, is a fan of traditional debate.

"Most of us think of the presidential debates when we hear the word 'debate,'" he says in a release. "Argumentative banter back and forth, while not responding to the question, often occurs in those formats. The Old Parkland Debate, however, is a fact-based discussion of topics from two different points of view — one for and one against the stated proposition. The emphasis is on engaging in informed discussion in a civil manner. Our political leaders could probably learn some constructive lessons from these young, bright minds."

Crow's belief that the art of critical thinking and respectful conversation should be championed led him to create the Debate Chamber at Old Parkland. In addition to the annual high school debate tournament, Old Parkland is working with think tanks and other organizations to host additional debates on a wide range of issues.

In 2017, the Manhattan Institute of Public Policy held a debate there on a universal basic income. The National Review Institute held a debate on the constitution's role in freedom of speech and religious beliefs. The National Constitution Center held a debate about whether or not the First Amendment protects hate speech. Alan Dershowitz and Cornel West debated BDS, aka Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, a campaign to pressure Israel to follow international law.