Letter from Executive Director, Scott Deatherage
Dear Friends of Urban Debate,
At the NAUDL, we are busy preparing for our most important week of the year. On April 23rd, students from nearly 20 cities around the country will arrive in Chicago, ready to compete for the title at the Chase Urban Debate National Championship. This is an event you won’t want to miss.
Former debaters and other supporters in the ranks of law, business, government, and academia have already committed to attending our Awards Ceremony and NAUDL Annual Dinner, April 25th 2009. Please consider joining us for these events at the historic Art Institute of Chicago, as we celebrate the accomplishments of debaters from UDLs across the country. This year’s Keynote Address will be delivered by none other than David Boies, former high school and college debater and founder and Chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. This year we will also honor The Open Society Institute as our Urban Debate Champion. Gara LaMarche, former Vice President and Director of the OSI’s U.S. Programs will accept the award. We very much hope you can join us for this celebration of urban debate.
As this NewsBlast makes clear, these are exciting times for urban debate. Read below about how:
- The Obama administration includes several prominent supporters of urban debate, including Arne Duncan, Lawrence Summers, and Robert Reich.
- Gara LaMarche will accept the Urban Debate Champion award on behalf of the Open Society Institute at our Annual Dinner on April 25th 2009.
- Brown University alumna and Providence School Board member Rosanna Castro attributes her success to participation in urban debate.
- The Los Angeles Times features urban debate and its incredible impact on low-income and immigrant students.
- Investment in urban debate diversifies the pipeline to the legal profession.
- A slate of City Championship tournaments are capping successful seasons around the country.
- Over a dozen media outlets have recently profiled urban debate.
Please join us in Chicago this April to connect with old friends and make new ones. If you haven’t yet and would like to purchase a table or seats at the Annual Dinner on April 25th, please contact Eric Tucker at email@example.com or at 312-427-0152.
I look forward to seeing you in April,
National Association for Urban Debate Leagues
Obama’s Administration Holds Promise for the Future of Urban Debate
Over the years, urban debate has earned the attention and support of several leaders who have recently assumed key positions in the Obama Administration.
The challenges confronting our country have made it more important than ever to dramatically improve academic achievement and prepare all students to succeed in college and careers. As the president has recently noted,"the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens." Indeed, urban debate is aligned with the administration’s educational and economic priorities.
Former debater and White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers testifies, "Debate taught me a number of important skills that have helped me throughout my life. Careful listening, quick analysis, and clear synthesis of ideas are all integral to a successful debate. Developing these talents now will strengthen [urban debaters’] ability to perform in the various careers [they] will each undertake as adults."
Robert Reich, a prominent member of Obama’s Economic Transition Advisory Board, makes the case for investment in urban debate: "The economy of the United States depends to an ever greater extent on the productivity and preparedness of all of our workforce. To protect and secure our way of life, we must provide all of our youth with a world-class education. Urban Debate Leagues take us a solid step closer to that goal. UDLs work with teachers to build creative and innovative classrooms. These debate leagues can help reduce the education-opportunity gap that separates rich and poor communities and thus they can help our children’s chances and our nation’s future."
For an administration that prioritizes "what works" to dramatically improve academic achievement, ardent urban debate supporter, former Chicago Public Schools CEO, and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explains the rationale for investment in debate. "Chicago Public Schools invest in debate because it works for our students. Private partnership is an important part of our strategy, as well, and we thank Chase and the other private supporters of urban debate for making many of these excellent programs possible." Secretary Duncan invested more than $1.5 million in the Chicago Debate League during his tenure as Chicago schools chief. It is gratifying that many of our national leaders have been vocal in their support of urban debate, providing more evidence that urban debate is an idea whose time has clearly arrived.
With such supporters of urban debate providing crucial leadership for our country, we are proud to answer the administration’s call to roll up our sleeves and get to work building the future of our nation.
The Open Society Institute to be Honored at Upcoming Annual Dinner – Reserve Your Table Now!
Please join us at NAUDL’s Annual Dinner, which will be held on April 25th at the Art Institute of Chicago.
This year, the NAUDL will honor as our Urban Debate Champion the Open Society Institute (OSI), whose initial investment played a major role in creating the Urban Debate Network. OSI’s original Urban Debate Program, launched in 1997, sought to institutionalize policy debate in traditionally underserved high school systems. The Urban Debate Program provided an important template for the NAUDL’s work, which continues to transform the life trajectories of thousands of urban students to this day. Accepting recognition as the Urban Debate Champion on behalf of OSI will be Gara LaMarche, former Vice President and Director of the Institute’s U.S. Programs. Mr. LaMarche is now President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies. His early institutional work embodied his aim that youth have opportunities to develop the analytical and self-expression skills that they need to think critically about their world and to engage in democracy.
A limited number of tables remain, so please let us know if you, your law firm, fellow former debaters, or organization is interested in becoming a sponsor. For additional information about sponsorship levels, click here. Please contact Eric Tucker at 312.771.1816 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or to reserve your spot at the dinner today.
From Frustrated Student in Struggling School to Community Leader, Rosanna Castro Credits Her Years of Debate.
For Rosanna Castro, an alumna of the Rhode Island Urban Debate League, debate has always been a way to get connected, be empowered, and use her voice for change.
When she was a student at Providence's struggling Hope High School, Ms. Castro says she often felt resentment toward her surroundings. Hope High School has long struggled to help students achieve and has often failed to meet state and federal accountability standards. Like many other urban students, Ms. Castro often faced barriers just to get the opportunities others take for granted, leaving her feeling disillusioned, frustrated, and angry.
Things began to change for Ms. Castro once Hope started a debate team in 1998. She recalls being terrified and exhilarated the first time she took the podium to speak. She remembers the strong sense of teamwork that permeated the group, as students worked together to improve each others' arguments. It wasn't until she started debating that Ms. Castro says she learned many "practical skills" like researching and taking notes. She cites the activity as teaching students to use the "rational instead of the emotional" and to think critically. Debate allowed her to understand the obscure policies affecting her life, and helped her channel her frustration into articulate argumentation employing facts and figures.
After graduating from Hope in 2000, Ms. Castro took what she learned in debate straight to Brown University. In 2002, Hope was taken over by the state's Department of Education, but by that time, Ms. Castro was already in her second year at Brown. What she learned to do in debate - digesting evidence, summarizing facts, and identifying essential arguments - helped her to thrive in an Ivy League University. It also enabled her to see her education in the larger context of laws and decisions that form the experiences she went through.
That community engagement continued after Ms. Castro graduated from Brown in 2004 with a degree in public policy. At age 23, she was elected to the Providence School Board, where she continued to be an advocate for youth in Providence, RI. She first took a job as Family Outreach Program Manager at the RI Department of Health. In order to help more students get into college just like she had, she took a role managing the National College Advising Corp - part of a national network of colleges and universities that places recent college graduates as college advisors in the guidance departments of urban schools.
Despite her success, Ms. Castro insists she was just an "average kid." Her time on the School Board and her continued activism in the state has shown her that there are "25,000 rock stars" in Rhode Island schools that can all succeed if given the opportunity. Debate helped her realize her own potential by giving her a more advanced "sense of how to think about the world."
Ms. Castro's term on the School Board ended this past December, and she now plans to pursue an MBA in non-profit management. Looking back on debate, she recalls a key lesson her coach Mr. Michael Malardo taught her: "Don't victimize yourselves, that's what the whole world is doing." In the course of channeling frustration into confident, rational argumentation, Ms. Castro saw that many education policies do not recognize students' potential and do not provide the opportunities and determination students need.
As she works to change those very policies, she says she couldn't have done it without debate. Most of the debaters she knew in high school went onto college and graduated just like her.
Urban Debate featured in the Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times recently covered the resurgence of urban debate in Los Angeles, saying: "Educators and others are hoping the art of forceful and reasoned argument will once again sweep into many of Los Angeles' high schools.
"'For many of our students, English is a second language, and many of them are poor . . . and debate has nothing to do with that,' said [Los Angeles Unified School District] Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who was a member of his college debate team. 'They learn, in the end, that they can succeed with their words even when society tells them they can't.' […]
'"It's telling kids like us, who might not live in the nicest areas or have access to all the resources kids in other neighborhoods do, that we have worth,' said Fernando Morones, 14, who is part of the 26-member Elizabeth Learning Center debate team in Cudahy. 'This sets a level of fairness that we might not otherwise have. . . . It's showing others that we're capable.’"
Investment in Urban Debate Diversifies the Pipeline to the Legal Profession
Urban Debate Leagues are earning a reputation as an effective pipeline to the legal profession, because they train students to excel at in-depth research, argument construction and presentation, and understanding the law. Leading law firms increasingly integrate diversity with their long-term strategic plan and have begun to act to diversify the path to the legal profession. As Bart H. Williams, an attorney at Munger, Tolles & Olsen LLP, points out, “At a time when top law firms increasingly seek high quality candidates of color, Urban Debate Leagues play a crucial role in bringing debate to students from underrepresented backgrounds, and in turn, bringing these students to the law.”
Urban public schools struggle to prepare students for college and careers, and even top urban students are often underprepared for a legal education. Christina Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, explains, "My public high school education was a good one, but I would not have been prepared to succeed at Yale College without the analytical thinking skills and the intellectual and organizational discipline the rigors of debate gave me."
Many firms have turned to urban debate as a strategy for achieving diversity in the legal profession. Andrews Kurth, LLP has been recognized as a leader in diversity and recently collaborated with Houston civic and business leaders, the Houston Independent School District, and the NAUDL to help found the Houston UDL, as part of their long-term strategy to diversify the pipeline. Elizabeth A. Campbell, partner and Chief Diversity Office for Andrews Kurth, writes in the Texas Bar Journal that diversity is a core value and strategic priority at Andrews Kurth. The Houston UDL is one example of the type of investment that makes diversity a core value.
In addition, Bobbie Gregg, Chief Compliance Officer of Aon Corporation, is a governing board member of the Chicago Debate Commission. Ms. Gregg was recently featured in Inside Counsel for her commitment to pro bono work. In particular, the story featured Mayer Brown, which hosted a debate tournament in firm offices in outreach to urban students. "We are proud to provide urban debate teams with an additional opportunity to showcase their knowledge and critical thinking skills," said James D. Holzhauer, Chairman of Mayer Brown. "Debate honed my ability to think analytically, improved my communications skills and steered me toward a law career. We look forward to continuing our involvement in this event with the Chicago Debate League."
As Diana Dunker, Supervising Attorney, Legal Services of New Jersey, and winner of last year's NAUDL Alumnus of the Year, puts it, "Urban Debate Leagues increase participation of urban students in debate, one of the most powerful tools to dramatically increase academic achievement and a clear pathway to success in law school and as a professional"
In addition, dozens of general counsels and law school deans and professors have signed statements of support for urban debate as a legal profession diversifying activity.
City Championships Announced
The dates are set and the teams are preparing. Urban Debate City Championships all across the country are on their way. If you may be interested in seeing your city’s best urban debaters in top form, refer to the partial list below to see when a City Championship will take place near you.
Atlanta – March 29, 2009
Los Angeles – April 17-18, 2009
Urban Debate in the News
Urban Debate is frequently the subject of coverage in media outlets. Examples of some of the most recent coverage celebrating the successes of urban debate include:
- The Los Angeles Times
Yvonne Villarreal of the Los Angeles Times discusses the Los Angeles Urban Debate League as an effort to improve literacy and graduation rates.
- Boston Globe
The Boston Globe profiles students who qualified for the Chase Urban Debate National Championship.
- Kansas City Star
The Kansas City Star profiles students gearing up for the City Championships.
- KPFA (National Public Radio)
A debater from the Bay Area's Emiliano Zapata Street Academy is featured on KPFA radio.
- KALW's Crosscurrents
Crosscurrents – the daily news magazine from KALW – covers the Bay Area UDL.
- Inside Counsel
Inside Counsel profiles Aon Corporation’s Involvement in urban debate.
- Southern California Public Radio
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez of Southern California Public Radio reports on the inauguration of the Los Angeles Urban Debate League.
- University News (KS)
The University News features three UMKC debaters, including 2008 Chase Urban Debate National Top Speaker Sean Easterwood.
- Memphis Commercial Appeal
The Editorial Board of the Memphis Commercial Appeal weighs in on the value of urban debate.
- Fox News Kansas City
Phil Witt of Fox News Kansas City reports on Kansas City qualifiers for the Chase Urban Debate National Championship.
- Tufts Daily
Boston-based college student supports urban debate team.
- National Public Radio
NPR interviews DC debaters on education policy.
- Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Morning News features public debate.
- Tower Light
Baltimore Urban Debate alums Adam Jackson, Deverick Murray, Dayvon Love, and Deven Cooper will represent Towson University at the National Debate Tournament.