Students in Joe Emery’s Advanced Placement US History (APUSH) participated in a debate to determine whether the United States’ use of an atomic bomb in Japan was “Justified” or “Unjustified”.

Debates in AP US allow us to recognize our past triumphs and faults as a country and can help us give a more complete definition of what is means to be an American. – Joe Emery, Teacher


Students were assigned to a team and worked together to research and develop positions to support their side in the debate. On the day of the debate, the teams faced off to make their case.

Our debates in APUSH are essential in understanding that history is a narrative of multiple perspectives. In a debate, we must demonstrate the ability to establish an argument and support it, think critically, and work collaboratively. – Jake H

The debate began with an opening statement from each side to frame the team’s overall position and outline their major arguments.

I think the debate experience was very fun and engaging. It got us all to think and take positions on a very controversial topic. I think it is always cool to reflect on our past and talk about it through debate and see how different people interpret certain events in our nation’s history. – Geoffrey S

Following the opening statements each team presented an argument followed by a rebuttal from the opposing viewpoint. The arguments and rebuttals continued until it was time for the closing statement. Both were delivered with passion and sealed the team’s argument.


After a short break to recharge, it was time for the “cross fire” round. During this round, each team had five minutes to directly question the arguments made by the other team. They could direct their question at a specific person or it could be a general question for the whole team. The pace was frantic and the questions relentless, but all team members remained calm and respectful throughout.

I love doing debates in this class, because it makes academics competitive. Everyone works a bit harder knowing that they need to contribute to the overall performance of their team, and it’s really interesting to see how different people handle each role. I like seeing how everyone works with the issue they’re supporting, and I always appreciate the “drop the mic” moments when someone says something that just can’t be beat. – Victoria B

After the crossfire round, all that was left was for the judges to confer and declare the winner of the debate.

The debate really helped me learn about a topic I didn’t really think about and develop an opinion, and despite losing, I would still defend it. – Alex H

In the end, the judges determined that the “Justified” team had presented a slightly better set of arguments and were declared the “winner” of this debate. But as you can see from the reactions of the students involved, knowledge and communication skills were gained and displayed by all involved.

I enjoy all the debates we do in APUSH because we have a competitive group and it’s a time where we really get to run the class and show what we know. The debates allow you to practice public speaking which is an extremely important skill to have in life. It also really builds your confidence as you see yourself grow into a better arguer and speaker. – Julia S

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