Brooklyn middle school’s bilingual debate team among nation’s best

For many of the students in Brooklyn’s M.S. 50, Spanish is their first language. Five years ago, Principal Benjamin Honoroff decided that no child would be left out of debating on a national stage, making the school’s debate team bilingual and challenging English-only norms at tournaments.

M.S. 50 finished in the Top 4 in the country at the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament in Dallas, Texas. 

“Ninety-six year-old institution, and never before had there been a team that debated in a language other than English,” Honoroff said. “We had students debate in both Spanish and English. We brought in interpretation devices, we fundraised to bring interpretation devices and a professional interpreter to the tournament.”

“We’re bridging gaps in classrooms, talking to other students that they weren’t speaking to before, teaching other students that had no idea about the immigration topic,” said Miana Vega, a debate coach at M.S. 50.