WHAT IS URBAN DEBATE?
According to the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL), debate is an academic sport that builds reading, research, communication, and critical thinking skills. Each year high school debaters throughout the country debate a single complex policy question, or resolution, for an entire year. In 2020-2021, students are debating the topic “Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.” Coached by teachers, debaters conduct extensive research on the resolution and develop arguments for and against it. Debaters hone their arguments in after school practices and compete at weekend tournaments. Two-person teams participate in a series of 75-minute debates and each team alternates sides, arguing for the resolution in one round and against it in the next. Competitive debate has always been available to students at suburban schools, but it has never been widely available in more cash-strapped urban public schools. Urban debate programs level the playing field, giving urban students access to the same academically rigorous debate programs available to their suburban peers.