What Is The City But The People?

Thoughts on reform in urban schools

The great debate October 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — rakowick @ 2:10 am
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An important part of any school should be the activities they have to offer the students.  My high school had a ridiculous amount of clubs to join.  Seriously, we had everything from the food club to the native american club, the robotics club to the puppetry club.  You name it, we probably had it.  Clubs and activities are a way for students to feel involved in and proud of their school.  They also provide something for the students to do to keep them out of trouble when class isn’t in session.  Unfortunately, many urban schools aren’t given as many of these opportunities as suburban schools.  That’s why I was so happy when I came across an article about the Urban Debate League. 

The Urban Debate League is a program that puts debate clubs in urban schools, especially those that are made up of mosty poor minorities.  They then offer a debate for all the urban schools to come together and compete.  Creating debate teams in these schools not only gives the students a program to take pride in but it creates new learning opportunities.  The article states that at first, to get the students interested in debating, they asked questions such as “should uniforms or dress codes be required?” or “should high school students have more privledges that middle school students?”  These questions were things that the students could relate to.  Once they drew people into the debate team, they created debate topics such as the topic for this year’s debate, renewable energies. 

The best part about the Urban Debate is that the debate topics encourage students to educate themselves on certain social issues.  The article talked about how much intense research, planning and responsibility is involved in preparing for a debate.

High School Debaters in Training for Verbal Fisticuffs
By Nancy Mitchell, Rocky Mountain News
October 18, 2008

The debaters will continue to hone their research and debate skills on the same topic, renewable energies.  Their case file will grow to 24 files totaling more than 540 pages, with headings including “Nuclear Power negative” and “Social Ecology Critique affirmative.”

“The words might be big and I don’t understand them but I’ve got my trusty dictionary next to me,” Jessica said Thurday at Manuel, “and I’m looking up words and writing them down on a piece of paper like, that’s what that word means and that’s how you pronounce it.”

If research from other city debate leagues holds true, more than 75 percent of the Denver participants will go on to a four year college.

It’s amazing to me how debating has turned into something these students are passionate about.  Now they are taking their education into their own hands.  They are learning about social and environmental issues, learning how to work as a team, building their English skills and public speaking skills, and learning how to do proper research.  All of this is going to come in handy once they graduate.  Some may even have a better chance of going to college on debate scholarships. 

Hearing news like this is very inspirational.  I think the Urban Debate League has become very influental in the lives of these urban high schoolers.  It has given them something to work hard for and I can’t even imagine the pride and satisfaction they’ll experience when the debate comes and they can display all of their knowledge and debate skills.

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2 Responses to “The great debate”

  1. coachk97 Says:

    I liked this blog post because I feel that there is something similar happening at the school that I coach baseball and football for; that is there is no pride left in the school. Many people say that if there is no pride in school it is because they are not doing well in sports, or test scores, or some other thing connected to pride. I feel, on the other hand, that it is the other way around. If there is no pride within the school then athletics will not succeed and test scores will be low. That is why the lesson plan that I am trying to come up with is trying to create a program like this where kids can create their own type of pride within a school. Maybe it starts small; like kids weeding the landscaping around a school to keep a clean appearance, or spending a day cleaning around school grounds. Anything that allows the students to take ownership of the appearance or the reputation of their school. It can be just like the “This I Believe” project. When someone feels like they can take ownership of any given thing, that thing ultimately improves. Any idea, like this, that creates pride in a school by a student’s, or multiple students actions is a step in the right direction.

  2. kpillsbury Says:

    I believe that clubs are essential to keeping kids in school, no matter where they’re from, urban or rural areas. You’re right though. Urban schools don’t provide as many opportunities for students to join clubs as rural or suburban schools do. Clubs are like sports, basically. They give students a reason to enjoy school, motivation to go and reasons to keep their grades up, as long as their grades influence their eligibility. Debate is an AWESOME idea for the urban students! I really like the approach of coaxing students into debates by asking them questions that are relevant to their lives, like the school uniform question. Not only could this club be enjoyable for students, but it can be applied to their futures. Debate expertise is always a valuable skill. It’s great that these kids are actually excited about their debate team. They could revolutionize their school. Their club is forcing them to become more aware of their environments, and keeping them focused on changing the negative aspects of their lives.


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