As newly minted freshmen enter the Upper School, they are met with a barrage of clubs, dozens in total. Yet, when they sign up for a club like Debate, they may notice a peculiarity in its description: Not allowed to compete. Why would a club not be allowed to compete? they ponder. Why do these confuzzling rules exist, and what can be done about them?
Whenever anyone running Debate Club is asked about their lack of tournaments, the same answer always comes up: the administration. Debate Club leaders say that the administration “just told us we couldn’t participate affiliated with Lakeside. They didn’t give any reasoning”. However, in previous years, the Administration has told the Debate Team that they don’t have the money to back them in a national-level league (even if they send only one or two teams to tournaments once a month), and that the administration will not let participants fund the trips themselves because it would raise numerous equity issues. As a result, members of the Debate team have few chances to participate in district tournaments, compete against members of other schools, or pursue their debate careers beyond the scope of club activities. As one freshman who was considering debate told us, “coming to the Upper School after three years of Middle School Debate, I was utterly shocked to find that the debate club didn’t go to competitions.” This issue affects not only academic clubs, but other visual and performing arts clubs as well.
While we acknowledge that the administration does raise valid concerns about equity, we do not believe that the funding competitions would be onerous for school; in fact, it would be perfectly reasonable, align with the school’s mission, and significantly benefit students. As proclaimed in the school’s mission statement, Lakeside aims to “develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society.” Allowing clubs to participate in national competitions would only serve to further fulfill this statement: after all, tournaments stoke creativity and leadership, offering countless opportunities to develop and hone new skills, engage with diverse communities of people, and learn from one another.
As of now, there are seven or eight clubs that could feasibly compete out-of-state if given permission from the administration. On average, each club may only send around 4 or 5 people (for example, Ethics Bowl has teams of 5 or 6, and only one team can advance to the national competition). Because of these low team sizes, hotel, travel, and food costs would be relatively inexpensive. Given that, we believe that Lakeside should fund such trips. Students work hard for these sorts of competitions, and they bring along with them a multitude of rewards (both material and intangible) such as college scholarships, lifelong memories, and a chance to showcase talents and ideas, some of which may go on to effect policies on a global level. It is clear that students’ wellbeing would be augmented if the administration were to approve such trips.
For many, coming to Lakeside means an opportunity to aspire, flourish, and learn, an opportunity to lay the foundations for future success, and above all, a chance to bloom from students into doctors, engineers, artists, and leaders. Competitions and tournaments are a vital
part of this learning experience, and offer invaluable, real-world opportunities for growth. It is imperative that we give clubs the funding and support that they need to compete, and in doing so, allow students to pursue their passions to their fullest extent.