The University of Miami Debate Team will host The U Debates on the Coral Gables Campus for the Miami-Dade Urban Debate League (UDL), on February 27.
Since last year, the UM Debate Team has been working with the National Association of Urban Debate League and the newly formed Miami Dade Urban Debate League to close the achievement gap in local urban schools by giving students the opportunity to compete in academic debate. UM has been integral in launching the Miami league. Since September, UM has hosted five workshops, a practice tournament, and two competitive tournaments involving hundreds of local students.
The UM team has worked with students from 15 local high schools and middle schools to teach the art of policy debate. During policy debate, students compete in a two-on-two debate in which they discuss a topic given to them at the beginning of that academic year.
According to David L. Steinberg, the director of the UM debate team and a member of the UDL board of directors, policy debate is a uniquely beneficial and challenging debate format.
“Urban Debate Leagues across the country select the policy debate format because it teaches language skills, writing and reading skills, critical thinking skills, organization, and quick thought. It teaches many beneficial academic skills, that cannot be achieved through any other single activity,” says Steinberg.
This year’s topic is focused on surveillance and whether or not the United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance. The students have been researching this topic since early September and working with other leagues to better develop their research, public speaking and argument skills.
According to Steinberg, he has seen a substantial improvement in the students’ performances in debates and in their confidence in their classrooms.
“When we held the second tournament (the Martin Luther King Classic in January), judges who participated in the first tournament in December were amazed at the progress that had occurred in such a short time and how much better the debaters were doing,” says Steinberg.
According to the National Urban Debate League, debate is one of the most useful activities in which students can participate. A reported 90 percent of urban debaters graduate high school on time, and an estimated 86 percent move on to pursue college degrees. Each semester a student participates in debate, his or her grades significantly improve, which explains why the average GPA of an urban debater is 3.23, well above the college readiness benchmark.
Many of the students, who participated in the first few workshops, are now winning awards in the UDL’s tournaments. The UM Debate Team has enjoyed helping to plan, judge, and organize all of the events, as well as watch the community that has grown around this worthy cause.
“A really wonderful thing that we enjoyed in the most recent tournament, was the support from faculty and students of Miami-Dade College, FIU, and UM, from local businesses and law firms, and local government leaders all coming out to help volunteer and support the League. The Miami Dade Urban Debate League is becoming a community and a family” said Steinberg.
The U Debates take place on February 27 at University of Miami. The tournament assembly room is located at Whitten Learning Center (LC) 120. To learn more about the UM Debate Team visit http://debate.miami.edu/.