Say What? Meet the walking, talking argument for Denver's Urban Debate League


A new trimester has started at Manual, granting Theron a chance to get his GPA back up so he's eligible to compete in the city championship, the tournament that could get him and his sister to New York. At home on this Sunday afternoon, three weeks before the tournament, the siblings craft their strategy.

"What's a good number of practice rounds to do against other teams?" Theron asks. He's still pacing the living room, pivoting in his stocking feet and tossing his mini-football.

Opponents pick their words carefully against the Manual High School debate team.
Anthony Camera
Opponents pick their words carefully against the Manual High School debate team.
Manual debate team coach Charlie Smith knows what he likes when he hears it.
Anthony Camera
Manual debate team coach Charlie Smith knows what he likes when he hears it.



Watch a video of the Manual High School students at the city debate championships on March 19, 2011. Watch the video on Latest Word.

"We should try to do five," Teague answers.

Theron considers her idea for a second. That's not enough, he decides. They have to train harder than that. "We should do eight!" he says. "That's how many there are in a tournament. So it's like we're making up for the tournament we missed."

There are some who think that missing the last tournament will hurt Teague and Theron's chances of winning the city championship, which will be held Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, at the DU Sturm College of Law, where the DUDL is headquartered.

"They lost a lot by not debating at [the last] tournament, because it's all about continued momentum," says Denzler, the Regis debater and volunteer DUDL judge. "But if they can buckle down, I think they can do it."

That's why they've started early, hammering out a complicated strategy for the city tournament that calls for them to abandon the Okinawa deontology case that their opponents know well by now for more experimental, college-level types of cases. It's stuff they've never tried before, and they ask that Westword not reveal the details in this story. Then they change their minds for a moment, joking that maybe they should post their new cases on Facebook, the epicenter of debate trash-talking, the night before the tournament and dare their opponents to stay up all night coming up with counter-plans.

As with some of his wilder ideas, Teague talks Theron out of it. At one point, when Theron brags that "everyone tells me to stick with one or two affirmatives, but I don't," she questions their entire strategy.

"But do you notice that whenever we do that, we only win narrowly?" she asks.

"Yeah, but we've never lost!" Theron answers.

Theron and Teague don't know what awaits them after the championship. But right now, they're focused on today, and Theron is convinced their plan will work.

He looks over his sister's shoulder at the list of goals they've now completed. There are a total of eleven. "Then I just put WIN WIN WIN," Teague says.

"No matter what," Theron answers, quoting a popular T-Pain lyric.

"This is the finals," he adds. "Nobody gets any mercy."

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Manual began a journey to transformation under Rob Stein and the school is still in the process of proving that our public schools are worth saving not shutting. Go T-Boltz! I wish that Rob Stein had been able to complete this Journey with Manual High School. Thank You for coming back for 3 years to your old High School we wish you well.


Okay, another comment besides the geography lesson---it is a shame that so many people in northeast Denver are choicing out instead of fighting to make the schools in our neighborhood more rigorous. what happened to Theron when he experienced a whole grop of kids smarter than he was--he made himself get smarter. Many families have walked away from schools just because there are minorities or lower economic classes in them. Neighborhood public schools NEED students at ALL academic and socio-economic levels for most to gain.

Another great thing about Manual---SMALL class sizes . . . with lots of adult volunteers from the neighborhood to provide tutoring, mentoring and one-on-one classroom attention. And the teachers are an amazing team of educators!

Too many people still consider Manual what it was like when it was shut down. It has become (again) a safe, productive place for students to flourish in high school.


Manual High School is NOT in Five Points. It is in the (much tamer-sounding) Whittier neighborhood. I know Five Points sound lots tougher, more urban, but it is NOT correct!

For future reference, Whittier's boundaries are: 23rd Ave. on the south, Martin Luther King Blvd. on the north, York St. on the east and Downing St. on the west.