Lexy Green ’81: Director of Forensics
Education: University of California, Berkeley, BA
Years teaching at College Prep: 20
How does Speech and Debate fit into the College Prep Curriculum?
The students get academic credit. All participants start with a one-semester course, Beginning Debate, which is offered in the fall. This class introduces students to competitive speaking, analytic thinking, the basics of argumentation, and research. Our tournament schedule is pretty heavy—25 to 30 a year. We serve many different levels of debaters, so we participate in tournaments from which our students can qualify for national championships, as well as local ones which are great for the beginners. Something for everyone!
What attracts students to be part of Speech and Debate?
Students from all grade levels can join. There’s usually a core group of competitive participants who treat debate like the Olympics and their plan is to win it all—and they prepare like Olympians. Some students join because public speaking terrifies them and they want to conquer that fear, and others because this is a lot of fun. I’ve always been inclusive. As rewarding as it is to work with the competitive kids, sometimes the students who get the most out of the program are the ones who never win a round, but learn to stand up and say what they mean in a clear way. I love working closely with the team. I definitely want them to gain self-confidence, the ability to speak in public, and to support their arguments. I also want them to find their place on campus. Within College Prep, the team is a group of like-minded kids who share the love of speech and debate and it becomes their community within the larger school.
Were you involved in Speech and Debate while you were a student at College Prep?
I entered College Prep as a sophomore in 1978 when the team was in its second year of existence. The program then only had about a dozen students enrolled in Forensics. I joined because a family friend was on the team, Kathryn (Oliver) Mills ’80. And I joined because I love talking. I competed in different events: expository speaking; extemporaneous speaking, which was my specialty; and policy debate. During my senior year, the national organization introduced Lincoln-Douglas debate, so I did a little bit of that as well. Debate was definitely my activity, the “thing” I did until graduating from Prep. I built on that experience by getting college credit for assisting the College Prep debate coach, Stevan Kalmon, while I was an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.
About what aspects of teaching Speech and Debate are you most passionate?
I love getting to know the students in a deeper way than I would in a traditional classroom. I try to follow their lead, asking: What are your goals? What topic are you interested in? What events are you interested in? I enjoy witnessing them gain self-confidence in their ability to speak in public and support their arguments. I also love creating a community for kids to share their passion. We travel a lot together, too. I’ve taken up to 70 students to large, local invitationals like Cal and Stanford, and almost that many to ASU and Cal State Long Beach. Spending all that time together builds strong bonds.
Is there something you’re most proud of from your tenure at Prep?
In leading the program for 20 years, I’m most proud of the California Round Robin that we host on campus each February. It’s a unique event—we invite the very top teams in policy, Lincoln-Douglas, and public forum debate from across the country. It’s held in the two days before the Cal Invitational, and the purpose is to draw the very top competitors to the Bay Area, rather than to the East Coast at Harvard, which hosts a competing tournament that weekend. The California Round Robin gives participants a chance to compete against the top debaters. Unlike most tournaments where the final round is judged by debate people, in this tournament the final round is judged by experts on the debate topic, and they usually know nothing about high school debate. We’ve had UN Ambassadors, legal experts, and professors from UC Berkeley. Rather than render a decision, they engage in a dialogue with, and answer questions from, the students who in turn get to explore the connections and discontinuities between debate arguments and real-world policy making. It’s such an amazing experience!