In a couple of hours, I am going to be judging a High School Debate Tournament. However, this is not just any tournament, it is the tournament of the year for Northern South Dakota -- the National Qualifying Tournament (schools south of Interstate 90 have their tournament next week). The top two to three students in each division will advance to the National Debate Tournament held in June of each year. Needless to say, it is an intense tournament that will last well into the night on Saturday (South Dakota has a rule that says students can't compete on Sundays...we're old school). There are 9 events at this tournament: Policy Debate, Public Forum Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Original Oratory, Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking, International Extemporaneous Speaking, Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation and Duo Interpretation.
If you don't know what high school debate is, I would recommend two movies for you to watch. The Great Debaters and Resolved. The Great Debaters shows debate how it used to be and Resolved shows what Policy Debate has become. I will say this about Policy Debate, which is what is portrayed in Resolved: it does not help your speaking skills. The other types of events that students participate in however are great ways for students to learn public speaking skills, much like the Great Debaters movie (which is a lot how Public Forum works).
The students that I will be judging this weekend are the leaders of tomorrow. They have learned the skills necessary to be confident when they speak in front of an audience, the ability to research and prepare themselves as needed and the confidence to comprehend anything that is thrown at them in the workforce.
If you ever get a chance, I would recommend that you find a local tournament in your area and watch some rounds or even offer to judge a Public Forum round (we actually encourage people who do not have a background in debate to judge Public Forum). You will be amazed at the level of intelligence and professionalism that high school teenagers can have.