Debate club: ‘Fight Club’ for thinkers

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Debate club tends to attract kids who really like arguing. And for the kids who really, really like arguing, there’s Philadelphia’s summer debate academy that is run by the nonprofit After School Activities Partnership.

Friday was the final day of this weeklong camp, and we ventured up to George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science in North Philadelphia to take in the action. We figured we’d see some spirited argumentation featuring some talented Philly orators.

Instead, in Room 212, we stumbled on a classic tale — that of collaborators turned rivals.

Not unlike Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Dejah Hall and Jahmeer Stratton used to be a legendary tag team. Or at least that’s how they describe it.

"We were like a perfect match," said Jahmeer, a rising 8th grader at the Laboratory Charter School in West Philadelphia.

"He could tell what I was thinking without me even telling him," said Dejah, who is leaving Laboratory Charter this year for her freshman year at the Philadelphia High School for Girls.

But now, at the summer debate academy, they were squaring off for the first time.

And since we’re talking about debate kids, the highly anticipated match was naturally preceded by some smack talk.

"Second place is the first loser," Dejah declared. "I can’t be the first loser."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks