Frequent Q & A

Q: What courses should my child take?

If you have no experience in debate or “Root Words,” you should definitely do root words first. Then after two months of this, take “News Presentation,” and other grade-appropriate classes according to the ADL Recommendation Chart. Our roots word class is even good for high school children. This is a good skill to have for the SAT.

Root word is an amazing class that teaches children to understand the basic fundamental of the English language. The reason we start with root word is because by learning roots words they will improve in reading. In debate, they need to read a lot of evidence from News Paper, books etc. So if they come upon words they don’t know they can at least guess the meaning. Then after roots words, “News Presentation” (in order to train them to read, understand, and present evidence), “Refutation,” and “Smart Debate.” After all these classes, they can start to take Public Form Debate and/or Parliamentary Debate, then Policy debate, which is most difficult.

Q: When will the courses be opened?

Classes don’t begin until the minimum number of students designated for each class have registered. When student number for a particular class is not adequate, you will be on the waiting list when you register until the class gets filled up. For example, for Debate and Root words, the minimum number of students is 16-20. The reason is you need at least 8 – 10 pair to do in-class debate tournaments. We will have tournaments within your own group so they can increase their skill as debaters. Since every class level is different it is essential that the class learn together as a group. We will also combine other classes later on as their levels enhance. Then it really becomes fun where, regardless of age or grade, same level debaters compete against each other.

You can also help us speed up the process by recruiting your own friends to the class, especially your own debate partner. Otherwise, you will be assigned to a partner by the instructor and you will not be allowed to personally choose your own partner.

Q: Can both of my kids attend the same class?

Yes, that is acceptable for most of the classes. For example, my son is in 10th grade and my daughter is in7th, but they debated as a team in our summer camp. Please review the ADL Recommendation Chart. for more detail on age and grade appropriate classes.

Q: What if I registered or paid for a course, but it doesn’t open?

Classes don’t begin until the minimum number of students designated for each class have registered. When student number for a particular class is not adequate, you will be on the waiting list when you register until the class gets filled up. If for some reason, we cannot open the class, you have two choices: 1) be on the wait list, 2) ask for refund and wait until next term.

Q: Are students evaluated before the class for proper replacement?

For some classes such as the PSAT classes, the first day of class is spent as an evaluation period. From the assessment of each student’s performance, specifically tailored instruction is planned and taught. However, for many of the beginner’s class such as root words, story debate, and/or smart debate, they are open to all students without evaluation, since most of it is based on student’s ability to learn new words and memorize.

Q: Why ADL teaches my kids vocabulary words that are too difficult?

No, it isn’t too difficult for them; Consider the following:

  1. Kids don’t discriminate and process like we adults do and say this word is “too difficult” or “too easy” because to them all things are new. To kids, they cannot even define what is “difficult.” They just think, I have not learned it yet.
  2. Kids’s frontal lobe is soft and not hardened, meaning they can actually “register, process, and memorize” more information compared to adults whose brain is already hardened.
  3. Kids have super “audible” ability, meaning they will absorb and memorize whatever they listen to from my recordings, even without thinking about how difficult it is – e.g., Kang Chiao G4 kids and even their siblings in G1,2,3 memorized root words just by listening to it.
  4. If they want their kids’ English level to be as just as good as the kids in the U.S., then they have to allow us to challenge their kids’ current English level.
  5. Building larger “vocabulary repertoire” is the “secret weapon and a true asset” to mastering any foreign language. Without it, they will always struggle.

Q: Would camp be better than regular once a week debate class?

Lauren Lin’s mom Penny’s answer: Definitely regular class plus winter camp is the best option. My daughter had all the classes. When TDA first began, the classes met twice a week, but now it is adjusted to once a week to offer convenience to students and parents.

Back then, we started with roots words, then current news (reading and understanding the evidences) refutation and speech. After all this, they started to do Public Form Debate, then finally Policy debate.

Then we had a Spring Camp in Taipei in April, which my daughter attended for the entire week. After that, in June we went to States to compete at the NJFL Nationals. Then immediately after the NJFL, our students headed to a 2 week summer camp at Notre Dame, Maryland.

This year, ADL students will attend the Stanford University summer camp, even a notch higher than the place we went last time. My daughter is the same age as yours. I am also a TAS parent. The reason I am promoting debate is because from my own personally experience, my daughter has learned tremendously from all of these. I hope I answered all your questions.

Q: Why beginner debate class size is big?
  1. Debate is about learning multiple perspectives to respond in multiple ways in a fast and logical manner. High level of critical thinking can only be developed if your child is constantly challenged by other smart kids in the class. Conversely, in a smaller class, kids become too accustomed to the limited minds and voices of their classmates, thus lack high level of engagement and stimulation. You can be assured that in a bigger class, there will be students who will challenge your child more frequently, differently, and deeply, ultimately helping your child to cultivate a quick mind that can absorb, analyze, and respond to various attacks.
  2. Debate class needs to be big because it requires partners with whom we organize tournaments. For example, 2 students form one team, so a class of 16 kids actually means 8 or less debate teams. Likewise, a class of 12 kids means 6 teams, and so forth. If the number is too low, the class cannot be sustained in the long run because tournaments are the pumping heart for debate.
  3. Over 20% of the students drop every year from debate training for various reasons: A) too difficult; B) too time-consuming; C) time conflict with school activities; D) transfer or move to a different area; and, E) simply hate arguing and find debate meaningless like my own daughter. Similar to most kids learning to play the piano when they are young, but only a few of them continue in middle and high school, in debate, student retention rate is low.
  4. Jessie’s experience: My son, Brandon, started debate with almost 50 TAS 5th grade classmates, but only 2 of his friends were still with him when he was in 11th grade. As a result, Brandon couldn’t attend the 2014 U.S. NSDA tournament because he couldn’t find a partner from his cohort. Jessie, heartbroken for her son, sobbed for three days. Debate is a long-term endeavor, by being shortsighted and trying to limit the class size now, you will one day cry in tears like me.
  5. How can a CEO of ADL not find a partner for her own son in 2014? You will realize this as your child becomes more advanced in debate, your child will seek a partner “only” from his/her original cohort, people who are “at least equal if not better” in debate skills. This is why in 2014 my 8th grade son with 3 years of debate experience did not want his mom to find him a partner with only 1/2 years of experience, as he knew that by being with a novice partner, he would not have a fighting chance in the U.S. This is why we need to make sure the original class is big enough, so that after everyone quits, there will be still some left to debate with in the future.
  6. Finally, debate is a team sport, not an individual activity. So, if you are against the big class size now at a beginning level, when your child is older, you will experience difficulty in finding your child a suitable partner. Therefore, even if s/he wanted to continue to debate, your child might quit debate prematurely. So, please think long term, as debate class size will shrink gradually as they get more advanced for the reasons I have mentioned above.
Q: How often and where do you hold debate tournaments?

Please look under the tab called “Tournaments” on our website or click here. It will let you see the most updated, tentative tournament schedule. Student who would like to compete, must register with the ADL staff.

Q: How can I or my child find a best debate partner? 
  1. There is a short term benefit of a strong partner; that is, you are more likely to win. For example, a weak debater will benefit and might even win with a strong debater.
  2. But interestingly and most importantly, there is also a long-term benefit of a weak partner. For example, if a weak debater improve 10% by having a strong partner, the strong who have to carry the weak improve 200%. This is a principal of God. When you help others; you become stronger. The stronger debater will do two peoples’ work, and as a result, will transform as a super debater. Think about it: mothers and fathers became strong after having a child who was totally dependent on them. Before we were married, before we had kids, we weren’t as strong as we are now. Same principle applies in debate partners.
  3. Most dangerously, there is a long-term harm to having a strong partner for a long time; you become lazy, dependent, and thus don’t improve. For example, on of my students did the very first tournament alone because his partner couldn’t show up. He was under pressure, so even though he was sick with fever, he performed better. But on his second tournament, when he did it with a stronger partner, he relied on his partner mostly, and as a result, he performed worse than the first tournament, and he didn’t improve at all, and even lost confidence in himself.
Q: How can we resolve partnership issues?


  1. For in-class practice debates, teacher arranges.
  2. But for paid tournaments, students have the right to choose their own partners, since they are paying for the tournament. For example, students would rather not attend the tournament, if they don’t like their partner.
  3. ADL coaches intervene ONLY if there is a problem. For example, if a kid wants to attend a tournament, but cannot find a partner, ADL coach will do his/her best to help find one.
Q: How do debaters decide who speaks first and second?

Is it true that about 75% of winning or losing depends on the second speaker? This is true because the second speaker does the rebuttal in debate. Thus, the responsibility of the second speaker is greater. So, if you don’t want this kind of pressure, then you can choose to be the first speaker.

This also means, if you are the second speaker, and if you feel you are a strong debater, then you should be able to win a debate no matter who your partner is, so you don’t have to worry too much about a partner.

I hope the above information helps eliminate concerns about partnership, and enhance debate planning and practice for our next semester.

In the U.S., it is customary to split the speaker positions into half/half, as that is considered fair and ethical. For example, John can agree to speak second for Pro case, and Mary can agree to speak second for Con case. In fact, most if not all coaches will demand that students share their speaker positions evenly to provide equal opportunities and challenges to both debaters to enhance their future growth, as second speakers usually improve more due to more opportunity given to rebut arguments.

Q: What is the difference between “public forum debate” versus “policy debate”?

I know many students and parents don’t understand the difference between PF and Policy, so let me try to explain in a simple manner.

Public Forum debate is rather a recent addition to NSDA, an easier modification of policy debate because too many judges were complaining that they didn’t understand policy debaters, as policy debate – over almost 100 years of U.S. debate history – has become esoteric for average audience. NSDA also needed to make it more inviting for students to start debate, so they created PF debate to lower the bar and the fear factor of beginners.

PF topic changes every month because it is meant to move quickly from topic to topic, so no need to dig deep, but policy debate topic changes once a year because it is meant to be a deep learning experience. Arguably, one year of policy debate is worth getting 2-3 PHDs as students will research, analyze and debate over thousands, as opposed to hundreds of evidences for PF.

PF includes 1) current news, 2) historical background, 3) politics, 4) argumentation with logic and verbal skills.

Compare this with Policy debate that includes, everything PF does 1,2,3,4 and

5) law making process in Congress, Senate, executive branch;

6) budget and funding policies and execution for federal and state governments;

7) theory arguments about all aspects of policy debate such as counterplans; and

8) psychology + philosophy from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Derrida, Virillo, Wilderson, Neoliberalism, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schmitt, Lacan, Foucault, Baudrillard, and every ancient and contemporary philosopher you have ever heard will be taught.

So to simply put, there is no “ism” in PF, as everything is simple and it is about what is happening TODAY, but in policy debate, there is a lot of Ph.D. level “isms.” For example, ableism, anthropocentrism, biopolitics, capitalism, colonialism, Eurocentrism, exceptionalism, false heroism, feminism, imperialism, objectivism, orientalism, monologism, racism, subjectivism, territorialism, transhumanism, lately model minority (about Asian Americans) are taught and debated in policy debate under the argument title of “Kritik.”

While colleges recognize top PF debaters favorably and admit them more to their campuses at a higher rate compared to other extracurricular activities, debate scholarships are almost solely given to policy students, not PF students, because in the U.S. collegiate level, it is policy that is more widely practiced, not PF. ADL’s current coaches Tyler, Brennan, Dylan, Andrew, and former coaches Julian and Mike were also recipients of college policy debate scholarships, and ADL is extremely lucky to have such top policy coaches.

Because I insisted and I personally love policy debate, ADL is the ONLY place you can learn policy in the entire Asian continent: There is no policy debate in China, Japan, and Korea because they believe it is too difficult for Asians. Another reason why they don’t want to teach policy in any other part of Asia is because policy is less profitable for business minded institutions because it requires more expensive coaches, judges, research time, and all else.

Q: What about MUN?

There are many benefits to MUN.

1. Broadens Students’ International Perspectives: “If chosen,” students are assigned to become delegates of various countries and speak on behalf of the given nation in public. This helps students broaden their understandings about international relations and different cultures.

2. Get to Travel and Meet Foreign Students: By attending the annual “conferences,” students can meet other students from other parts of the world. Students also gain a cultural experience by traveling.

3. Participate in Decision Making Process: Because it is student governed, students have chance to participate in different committees and engage in decision making process, enhancing their social and political skills.

4. Develop Writing & Leadership Skills: This is a direct quote from a student who has benefited much by the MUN program. “I think that MUN shows one’s leadership and public speaking skills, demonstrates a student’s willingness to try new things, and underlines any student’s writing abilities.”

However, MUN is not a debate activity, but a student-governed speech club, so it is not as intensive and structured as other nationally recognized activities.

1. Not Enough Time to Speak: One committee can consist of as little as 10 delegates, while a large committee can be gathered together in one room with up to 100 delegates, but all delegates are given around 1-2 minutes to speak per a session. Therefore, for the same amount of time as any debate tournament (2-3 days), the majority of the students end up speaking less than a few minutes throughout the entire conference.

2. Discussions Cannot Go Deep Enough: Although there is no officially specified number of sessions (rounds), there are usually about three topics and each topic can be considered one session. Mostly, the chairs will get a specific amount of time allotted to each topic and they are debated equally. Often, however, there are delays due the sheer number of delegates in one room, so the topics are not given enough time on the floor to be sufficiently talked about, especially when all the delegates want to speak at the same time.

3. Resolution Supports the Status Quo, so Lacks Critical Thinking: In debate, pro teams argue about ways to change the status quo and con teams oppose the change; but, the opposite is true for MUN. All delegates support the stance of country they represent, neither do they refute the positions of other delegates. As a result, less critical thinking is required, other than persuasion, acceptance, and diplomacy.

4. Favoritism: All delegates are chosen but more “popular” delegates receive more opportunities to speak, especially when the chair has the authority to choose in a room of over 40-50 kids wanting to speak. Thus, favoritism adds up, and hardly any conference offers everyone a fair shot.

5. No Professional Training: Because it is student governed, kids teach each other. There is no professional speech or debate coach assigned for MUN. Therefore, usually the older students mentor the younger ones.

6. Hard to Verify Accomplishments: Even if you are in the travelling team, it is hard to document on a college application. Because there are no winners or losers in MUN, colleges are clueless to each student’s actual “skill level.” Even if you were awarded the “Best Delegate,” how can you prove it was legitimate when students judge each other, and favoritism plays a big role? In fact, since MUN is what everyone does, how can you stand out in the crowd? For instance, if all 200 seniors in a given school put MUN as their speech experience in their application, how would the college admissions verify and screen out the best ones from this school?

In short, consider the huge speech time gap between MUN and debate per each day. In MUN, your child is guaranteed to speak for about 2-4 minutes and listen to other delegates for either an entire or a half day. In contrast, in one day of policy debate (usually 4 rounds), your child alone (aside from his partner) speaks about 64 minutes and writes their rebuttals for 200 mins during theirs plus their opponents’ speech times. So, compare this to MUN which permits 2-4 minutes of scripted-speaking without needing to write or prep their next rebuttals: Which will improve your child’s critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills more?

Q: Is it more difficult to win in the U.S. with policy debate? 

No, opposite is true.

First, policy debate is a smart choice because the chance of winning with policy is higher as too many kids are now doing PF in the U.S. because PF is much easier.

Second, for PF, speaking ability is more emphasized and in policy intelligence is more emphasized. So in a nutshell, PF is more for native kids who can speak fluently and policy is more suitable for Asians who may not speak eloquently, but can argue points strategically.

Third, judges for PF are least impressive – any average individuals or even parents, anyone without any debate experience. But for policy, they cannot do that, so they hire the best judges who understand policy, so the judging is not so much based on luck, but merit.

In sum, there is less chance your kids can win doing PF in the US, while there is a bigger chance your kids can win in Policy. There are just way too many PF kids in the US – too competitive.

So, you might ask what about Benson, Eric. Kelly, Allen, and Brandon who won in PF debate at TOC in 2016, 2017, and 2018? Well, actually they were all policy debaters who temporarily switched to PF, so they were exceptional in strategies and rebuttal skills. This proves, even PF debate, at its highest circuit such as TOC, is more policy-like, requiring more evidence and real debate skills as opposed to mere flowery persuasion.


2020 Proof: Grade 6 Draven and Jordan are the youngest Novice Policy Champions of California Peninsula High School Tournament! See Results

2019 Proof: ADL policy middle school students have won the Michigan High School Tournament! See Results

2019 Proof: 1 ADL policy team went and broke at Yale (Fiona/Jenny), and team broke! See Results

2019 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

2018 Proof: Most of policy teams win at Stanford and Berkeley! See Results

2018 Proof: Policy debaters amazing accomplishments at Gonzaga! See Results

2018 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

2018 Proof: All policy teams won, while all PF teams lost! See Results

2014 Proof: Look at this! 16 PF kids ALL LOST and 6 policy kids ALL WON! See Results

Q: If one chooses to do policy, does that mean one must quit public forum debate? 

Policy kids don’t quit PF, but they do both, just like Eric, Benson, Kelly, Brandon, Allen, Brian, Ginny, and the two Kevins. Policy kids find PF very easy to do temporarily for NSDA China, Korea, or Japan tournaments, but PF kids can NEVER suddenly change to policy.

Vice versa for debate coaches: Policy coach can teach any form of debate because policy encompasses all other forms of debate, but PF coach cannot coach policy. This is why, once you have done policy, coaching MUN, World Scholar, Parliamentary, or any other format is easy for a policy coach, as there is no other debate more fully developed, more complex, and more challenging than policy debate. Policy debaters and coaches are at the top of debate practice and expertise, respectively.