I WAS AFRAID TO EVEN RAISE MY HAND IN CLASS IF I KNEW THE ANSWER. DEBATE HAS GIVEN ME THE EXPERIENCE AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO VOICE MY OPINIONS AND SHARE MY THOUGHTS. CHLOE DENNISON 2017 NATIONAL STUDENT OF THE YEAR FINALIST
affairs—represent a logical starting point for leagues. While a focus on policy issues may have immediacy for rural students, it is also possible that the scope of national topics may prove intimidating for resource-deprived, small school programs, and thus, while debating national topics has the advantage of connecting isolated communities to the larger world, some leagues may find it more effective to select narrower versions of a national topic, or use limited case lists or common evidence sets, to promote a more manageable, resourceadapted starting point. This model has been successful in promoting novice debate and may have its advantages.
Nonetheless, where such variations are employed, leagues should use topics that connect students to the larger world, encourage consideration of the diverse perspectives, and reach out to their urban counterparts to facilitate collaboration. There also must be recognition that debate education does not need to be limited to interscholastic tournaments to be impactful in these communities. Debate in the classroom—even if students never set foot in a tournament—is a vast improvement over no debate. Scholarship already exists on the value of “debating across the curriculum” or “argument across the curriculum”
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models. Where schools simply lack the number of students necessary to mount a viable debate program, an extension of a successful league operation may be training for the faculty of remote districts in how to bring argumentation instruction and activities into their everyday teaching. Additionally, while “full service” individual events programs may not be logistically possible in the early days of a league, adding a confined set of persuasioncentric offerings—such as Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, or Impromptu Speaking—might provide an additional outlet for schools unable to field team events due to small numbers of students.
A BROADER MANDATE The societal problems referenced in this article are bigger than any one community or broadbased educational reform, and no singular solution can claim to be the silver bullet that creates equality of opportunity with respect to program access or can claim to ameliorate the isolation that can lead to problems identified in this article. Nonetheless, when one considers the scope of problems now facing all segments of American society— problems that reach to the core of who we are as a democracy—we may have reached a point where advocacy needs to extend beyond