Nebraska State High School Debating League | Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries
The Nebraska State High School Debating League was organized in 1908 by Professor Miller M. Fogg along the lines of his renowned Intercollegiate “Seminary” model at the University of Nebraska. The Department of Extension administered the League as part of the University’s commitment to its constituency. UNL Intercollegiate Debate Seminary members and UNL faculty served as judges for the league debates, compiled study materials for debates, and published the League’s newsletters.
The stated goal of the League was to “promote, among the secondary schools of the state, clear thinking and effective expression in preparation for vocation and for the discharge of the duties of citizenship in a democracy.” Debates were judged on the qualities of subject mastery, argumentative thinking, and oral discussion. Debate topics were chosen for their current national relevance to an informed citizenry of a democracy and included such critical questions as the entry of the United States into the League of Nations and the value of labor unions. In 1921, Nebraska adopted the innovative procedure of requiring competitors in the State Championship Debate to be prepared to argue either side of a proposition.
The Debate League was notable for its rapid growth into the largest league of its kind in the United States, with a membership of over 85 schools. From its inception, the League counted numerous young women among its most visible and successful debaters. Significantly, in the early part of the twentieth century, high school debate was an intellectual activity of a caliber that rivaled student athletics in its popularity.