It’s No Debate: Tulane Debate Education Society Makes a Big Impact by Haneen Islam

Want to volunteer as a debate judge? Contact Professor Ryan McBride at: rmcbride@tulane.edu. The tournament is October 24th and there will be a training session (with pizza!) the week before. Prior debate experience is a plus, but not required. Read more about the Tulane Debate Education Society below!

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Among Tulane’s many opportunities for community service is the Tulane Debate Education Society headed by Ryan McBride, a professor who focuses on classical rhetoric. The Tulane Debate Education Society is devoted to coaching New Orleans middle school students in the art of debate and helping to host tournaments. It is a great opportunity for Tulane students and middle school debaters to develop their skills as speakers and thinkers.

The Tulane Debate Education Society formed six years ago after Professor McBride’s piloted a new service-learning class called “Aristotle in New Orleans,” which involved coaching middle school students. After taking the class, a number of students decided that they wanted to continue coaching, so with McBride, they started the Tulane Debate Education Society. “We offer middle school students the opportunity to develop public speaking skills, to develop their critical thinking skills and to find their voices,” McBride said.

The Tulane Debate Education Society seeks to stimulate young minds and encourage them to think about things that they are normally detached from in their daily lives. One might expect that topics chosen for middle school debate tournaments would be “easy,” but that is definitely not the case here. “I remember going to one middle school and the coaches were like, ‘Okay, you want to debate about soft cookies versus hard cookies?’ And this seventh grade kid said, ‘I want to debate about Syria,” McBride said.

The two topics that have been selected for the October 2015 tournament are by no means easy sailing: the first one asks if students believe that “Computer Science should be a required class for high school graduation,” while the second addresses an even more controversial issue, that is, whether “the American nuclear deal with Iran will do more harm than good.” This tournament is not the first time that these students have debated such difficult topics. McBride explained how students have frequently debated central issues such as the Common Core, immigration laws, and the Electoral College, among other similarly engaging topics.

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The Tulane Debate Education Society has come a long way in 6 years, from holding one tournament per semester for only three schools to now hosting two middle school tournaments each semester with 16 schools. Large numbers of Tulane students are coaching, organizing and judging.

The Society also makes a meaningful impact on Tulane students. They are given the opportunity to employ their skills as college students simultaneously earn academic credits and fulfill their 2nd tier service graduation requirement for their internship, while building a strong bond with the local community. It is a challenging, meaningful, and thrilling prospect that gives Tulane students the chance to “grow and have a deeper understanding of not only the debate format but of the kids of New Orleans,” said McBride.

Interested? Be a judge for the upcoming tournament on October 24th! Judges are not required to have any specific qualifications. Having former debate experience will help, but is not required. There will be a “pizza-fueled” training session for interested volunteers! For more information, contact Professor McBride at rmcbride@tulane.edu.

Written by Haneen Islam, a freshman studying Political Science. Haneen is a student assistant for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS. 

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