The Twin Cities’ top high school debaters got some tips Thursday morning from two guys who have spent the past couple of years refining the art.

The new mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter, judged the Minnesota Urban Debate League’s Great Education Debate, where four students presented arguments and rebuttals on the topic of investing in career technical education as an alternative to four-year college degrees.

“You have mastered a skill that has largely been lost in American society, which is the ability to debate respectfully,” Frey told the students after the debate, which took place at Augsburg University. “I’m blown away.”

The event promoted high school debate programs for their success rate in students graduating on time, getting into college and testing higher in self-esteem than their peers.

After several rounds of arguments, Frey and Carter both offered praise and pointers to the participants, alongside co-judges Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota’s commissioner of education, and Xcel Energy spokesman John Marshall.

The judges’ panel voted by a razor-thin margin in favor of St. Paul Central High School junior Areonna Dean and Minneapolis South High School junior Ben Phi, who argued against the premise that vocational training is a viable alternative to college degrees.

The event also included an audience vote, which went to Washburn High School senior Lily Endo and Highland Park High School sophomore Mason Eischens, the team that argued in favor of the premise.