While presidential contenders debate platforms and policies in highly-publicized forums, heated discussion about U.S. involvement in Iraq and the death penalty will echo in middle school hallways this Saturday when The Claremont Colleges Debate Union (CCDU) helps organize a debate tournament for 7th to 9th graders. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 8, at Desert Springs Middle School in Desert Hot Springs.
The event is part of the Debate Union's community service Middle School Public Debate Program (MSPDP), launched in 2002. The MSPDP is the nation's largest debate and public speaking training program for secondary school students from socially and economically marginalized communities. More than 2,300 students from 25 school districts throughout Southern California received public speaking and debate training last year through the MSPDP.
"I expect that Saturday's event will be a success simply because of the dedication of the middle school students and their teachers," CCDU debate outreach director Kate Shuster said. "My hope for the MSDPD more generally is that it will continue to expand and draw in more schools throughout Northern California and across the country."
Desert Springs Middle School teacher Greg Paulk began the school's debate program in conjunction with Shuster and the CCDU last year. "These middle school debaters were developing into critically-thinking young adults," Paulk said. "Some of my debaters are now discussing current events with a familiarity that could not have been possible before."
Jenny Bindel '04 says she appreciates the benefits of this program in inspiring young debaters. "My experience in the middle school program has convinced me of the value of outreach programs for debaters and for the debate programs that organize them," she said.
More than 100 students from the Claremont Colleges participate in the MSPDP as part of the CCDU's community service requirement.
The Claremont Colleges Debate Union is the nation's largest debate society, with approximately 125 students participating in tournament competition, public debates, roundtable discussions, educational outreach, and conference programs every year. The Claremont debaters have placed first and third nationally in the past three years.