Roots and Growth
In 2008, an Oakwood humanities class launched into an unplanned debate about Gandhi’s act of burning clothes in protest of British rule. Points were made as to whether this was an act of violence. That class alone produced six future Oakwood debaters—the very first group of many that would go on to be a signature program of our school.
In those early days, establishing a debate program became the common goal of students and parents alike. Susan Schechtman, former Middle School dean, had long sought to establish a debate team and offered unwavering support. From that point to today, the program has expanded from students attending 4 to 6 local tournaments, to a total of 20 at the local, state, and national levels.
Middle school coach, Justin Sweitzer, and high school coach, Sergio Martinez, are especially humbled by our students’ outstanding achievements. The middle school team has finished 1st or 2nd in 21 consecutive Golden State Debate League tournaments; seven times, Oakwood speakers have finished 1st overall; and only one school has a better record at Nationals than Oakwood (45-20) over the past six years. Ninth grader, Nikki, has won 35 team debates, more than any Oakwood debater ever.
Seven high school students qualified this year for the Tournament of Champions (TOC)—up from three last year and none the year before—and many members of the Oakwood program are nationally ranked. The team also placed 10th at the National Speech & Debate Association Tournament, the largest high school and middle school competition in the country.