According to The Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of the majority of people. Far above the fear of death and disease, comes the fear of standing in front of a crowd. “The biggest fear is public speaking, with 15 percent of American experiencing a dramatic fear of it,” said Dr. Michael Telch of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders (LSAD) in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. “People have had to turn down jobs, and certainly students have dropped classes because of it.” (Newswire Today)

The debate and forensics teams encourage students of all levels of comfort with public speaking to participate and develop skills crucial in today’s job market and critical for professional development. In debate, young men learn and develop their understanding of argumentation theory, how to construct and design logical arguments, the art of refuting opposing arguments, research skills, and the use of supporting evidence all while developing confidence, composure, persuasion, critical thinking, and awareness of current events.

In forensics competitive public speaking, students can develop critical thinking, persuasion, presentation form and speaking style in a fun, competitive environment in one of six categories: dramatic performance, duo interpretation of literature, extemporaneous peaking, oral interpretation of literature, oratorical declamation, and original oratory. The team competes from September through March in the Detroit Catholic Forensic League (DCFL), where top teams can qualify for the National Catholic Forensic League’s Grand National Tournament. Practice is held after school Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Championship Program

The Brother Rice Debate Team has won 14 state championships, the first in 1978 and the most recent in 2007. Brother Rice has competed at the World Championships (Istanbul in 2011) and at Grand National Tournaments in cities such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Houston and Chicago, to name a few. Brother Rice also regularly competes in prestigious national tournaments, such as Glenbrook (Ill.) and Harvard University.

2013-14 Schedule

DATE:                                                                                             LOCATION:


Detroit Catholic Forensic League (DCFL)                          

Fall Sequence Public Forum                                    


Wednesday, October 9, 2013                                                       U of D Jesuit

Wednesday, October 23, 2013                                                     Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

Wednesday, November 6, 2013                                                    Notre Dame Prep

Wednesday, November 20, 2013                                                 Roeper


West Bloomfield HS Debate Tournament


Saturday, September 21, 2013                                                      West Bloomfield HS


Okemos HS Debate Tournament


Saturday, September 28, 2013                                                      Okemos HS


Lansing Jaycees Team Debate Tournament


Saturday, October 12, 2013                                                          Holt HS


Dexter “Delight” Debate Tournament


Saturday, October 19, 2013                                                          Dexter HS


34th Glenbrooks Speech & Debate Tournament


Friday, November 22, 2013 –                                                        Glenbrook North High School

Monday, November 25, 2013                                                       Northbrook, Illinois


Groves Falcon Debate Invitational


Saturday, November 9, 2013                                                         Groves HS


MIFA Public Forum Open State Tournament


Saturday, December 14, 2013                                                      Central Michigan University

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan






Detroit Catholic Forensic League (DCFL)

Winter Sequence Public Forum, Individual Events

 Public Forum:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014                                                      TBA

Wednesday, January 29, 2014                                                      TBA

Wednesday, February 5, 2014                                                      TBA

Wednesday, February 12, 2014                                                    TBA

Wednesday, March 5, 2014                                                          TBA

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, Public Forum Qualifiers             TBA

Individual Events:

Saturday, January 18, 2014                                                           U of D Jesuit

Saturday, January 25, 2014                                                           Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

Saturday, February 8, 2014                                                           Catholic Central

Saturday, February 22, 2014                                                         Academy of the Sacred Heart

Saturday, March 1, 2014                                                               Mercy

Saturday, March 8, 2014, Individual Event Qualifiers                Mercy

40th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament

Friday, February 14, 2014 –                                                          Harvard University

Monday, February 17, 2014                                                          Cambridge, Massachusetts


Dexter “Delight” Forensics Tournament

Saturday, March 1, 2014                                                               Dexter HS


MSCI Spring Tournament

 Friday, May 16, 2014 –                                                                  Grand Hotel

Sunday, May 18, 2014                                                                   Mackinac Island, Michigan


National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand National Tournament

 Friday, May 23, 2014 –                                                                 Various Venues

Sunday, May 25, 2014                                                                   Chicago, Illinois

Coach Tolksdorf Bio

Alexander Tolksdorf ’09 is an alumnus of Brother Rice High School and the debate & forensics team, with nine years of combined debating and coaching experience. The current head coach of the Brother Rice High School debate & forensics team, he also currently serves as the VP for Public Forum in the Detroit Catholic Forensic League (DCFL), is a member of the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic League’s (MIFA) Debate Committee, is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) Speech, Debate, & Theatre association, and is a member of Michigan Speech Coaches, Inc. (MSCI).

Alex joined the team in 2005 as a freshman and competed in policy debate and extemporaneous speaking through the course of his four years. Alex has competed in DCFL, at the state-level, including tournaments located at Wayne State University, East Grand Rapids HS, Groves HS, and Okemos HS, as well as on the national level. At the local league, DCFL, Alex was awarded with numerous individual speaker awards as a novice, JV, and varsity competitor, both in debate and forensics. In debate, Alex and his partners placed well locally. He qualified to attend the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand National Tournament (GNT) four years in a row. In 2006 and 2009, Alex competed in extemporaneous speaking at the GNT. In 2007 and 2008, he competed in policy debate at the tournament. As a novice, Alex and partner Robert Armstrong ’09 advanced to the quarterfinal round in policy debate at the prestigious and challenging Glenbrooks Speech & Debate Tournament in 2006, held annually in a suburb of Chicago, IL. He was a member of the 2007 MIFA Varsity B Policy Debate State Championship team. Starting in 2007, Alex competed and participated in the UN Foundation/IDEA (International Debate Education Association) Global Debates program, earning a spot, along with his teammates, to the 1st and 2nd annual Youth Leadership Summits held at the United Nations in New York, NY in 2008 and 2009. He was a member of the 2007-2008 1st in the World Global Debate team. Alex earned Brother Rice’s Medal for Proficiency in Debate & Forensics in 2009. While at Brother Rice, Alex also ran cross-country and track.

After graduating in 2009, Alex attended the University of Detroit Mercy, pursuing a BSBA (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration) degree, graduating in May 2013 with a concentration in accounting and a minor in philosophy. While at UDM, Alex also obtained a Certificate in Language Studies I in Spanish in 2010. While at UDM, Alex was an assistant coach for debate, forensics, & global debate, judging novice policy and public forum debate rounds, coaching novice debaters, and coordinating and executing service projects as part the Global Debate program. With Alex’s assistance, Brother Rice would be a winning school in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Global Debates, earning the team a spot in the 16th annual IDEA Youth Forum in Zeeland, Netherlands and in the 17th annual IDEA Youth Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. While unable to attend the 16th Youth Forum, Brother Rice sent a team to the 17th Forum in Istanbul, where Alex acted as head coach during the two-week long Forum and its Mixed Team Tournament (MTT). At UDM, Alex would also serve as a Student Dean of the Honors Program, the president of Beta Alpha Psi, and be a member of many other on-campus organizations. Committed to volunteer work and service learning, Alex participates in the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program sponsored by the College of Business Administration and Beta Alpha Psi at UDM, preparing tax returns for low- to middle-income individuals and families in the Detroit area. He is currently pursuing his MBA degree from UDM, where he expects to graduate from in May 2014, and works at a local financial consulting firm. He also completed two internships: one at the same consulting firm, and one at the Ford Motor Company.

Alex assumed the role of head coach for debate & forensics in 2012, where he has worked to develop the public forum program and expand its competition in-state with MIFA’s recent introduction of public forum on the state level, and the introduction of a state tournament in public forum. Under his tenure, Brother Rice debaters, for the first time, reached the Sweet 16 in the 2012-2013 Bickel & Brewer / NYU International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) in a field of 213 competitors from 34 U.S. states and 29 foreign countries. He hopes that Brother Rice will soon be able to add another state championship in debate to its pennant, this time in public forum. Alex is also actively engaged in researching the history of the debate & forensics program at Brother Rice.

Outside of work and school, Alex is an automotive enthusiast, and attends/cruises in the Woodward Dream Cruise annually. Besides working on cars, Alex enjoys running, genealogy, working on and upgrading computers, and occasionally playing video games.

Global Debate

What are Global Debates?

The Global Debates were a yearlong initiative developed to give high school students and their teachers an opportunity to actively participate and initiate public discussion around critical international issues. It was also a platform to exchange views and share courses of action that need to be taken around the world to combat these issues.

The Global Debates were originally organized by The People Speak, an organization dedicated to engaging young people on global issues around the world. In fact, The People Speak organization began in 2003 as an initiative the United Nations Foundation.  Since then, The People Speak has had 60,000 activities reaching people in all 50 states and people in more than 60 nations. In approximately 2009, the Global Debates became an initiative of the UN Foundation, IDEA debate, the NFL (National Forensic League), and other domestic and international partners. In total, Brother Rice participated in all four seasons – and all eight debates – of Global Debate competition (since the inception of the program).

The Global Debates program lasted from 2007-2011; now they are available only for college students.

Structure and Competition:

Two topics were debated per year, one in the first (“fall”) semester and one in the second (“spring”) semester. For each of these topics, a debate between Brother Rice teams was held, subsequently uploaded to YouTube, and submitted to the event organizers. Competing teams also had to earn “points” which determined worldwide team rankings. Points were earned through a variety of activities: service projects pertaining to the topics, writing press releases, obtaining press coverage, getting elected officials to attend the debate or service event, to name a few. The native Michigan garden in the courtyard by the ARC is one such service project conducted as part of the Global Debates.

The breakdown of points among the top teams (which were recorded by the organizers) for the four seasons are documented in the spreadsheet “Global Debates Four Year Results.” A review of the list of registered schools for the 2010-2011 Global Debates reveals that over 300 schools from across the globe and from every continent, except Antarctica participated. To the best of our knowledge for the first two years, thousands of teams competed in the Global Debates; moreover, Brother Rice is the only known high school in Michigan to have participated.

Brother Rice’s participation was fully documented on the website, as part of a “points” activity for the Global Debates:

Note: United Nations Foundation primarily coordinated the first two seasons, IDEA (International Debate Educational Association) primarily coordinating the final two seasons).


Fall 2007 – Resolved: Market mechanisms are preferable to regulatory approaches in reducing carbon emissions.

Spring 2008 – Resolved: Water should be considered national property.

Fall 2008 – Resolved: The World should adopt our plan to significantly combat climate change.

Spring 2009 – Resolved: Developed countries have a higher obligation to combat climate change.

Fall 2009 – Resolved: When it cannot do both, the United Nations should prioritize poverty reduction over combating climate change.

Spring 2010 – Resolved: Annex I countries of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should provide significantly increased aid to developing countries specifically for climate change adaptation.

Fall 2010 – Resolved: Nations of the world should increase protection of the social and economic rights of migrants.

Spring 2011 – Spring 2011: All states should immediately ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.

Season (Fall-Spring) World Rank U.S. Rank End Tournament Invited and/or Participated Location
2007-2008 1 1 Youth Leadership Summit Both United Nations,New York, NY
2008-2009 14 2 Youth Leadership Summit Both United Nations,New York, NY
2009-2010 12 5 Youth Forum Invited Zeeland, Netherlands
2010-2011 4 2 Youth Forum Both Istanbul, Turkey