Good Point

RI Urban Debate League hosts Summer Institute for young rhetoricians


Resolved: The Rhode Island Urban Debate League’s (RIUDL) 2018 Summer Institute will be a stimulating experience.

If you have debate experience, you may recognize the traditional resolution form used in high school and college debates. One team supports the resolution and argues in its favor; the other teams oppose and argue against it.

Debate might sound old-fashioned in the Internet era, but the skill provides multiple benefits, according to Ashley Belanger, RIUDL’s executive director. Studies show that adolescent debaters are more likely to grad high school and attend college, and they’re also more likely than non-debaters to reach the ACT College Ready benchmark in English.

Headquartered on Broad Street, RIUDL was founded in 1999 as a program of the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, receiving its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2010. About 100 Rhode Island students are in the organization’s after-school policy debate league. The league’s academic-year resolutions always begin with “The United States should…” and focus on a timely policy issue, whether national or international. Another 1,400 local students participate in an evidence-based argumentation initiative designed to incorporate critical thinking and reasoning skills into classroom studies.

Thirty high school debaters ranging from novice to varsity level will take part in RIUDL’s upcoming Summer Institute. The program, which has been operating since the mid-2000s, will run 10am-3pm weekdays at Brown University from August 13 through August 25 with a special Saturday celebration August 25. RIUDL alumni and college-age debaters will lead workshops and serve as coaches. According to program coordinator Olubunmi Olatunji, the $900 fee is waived for students who attend schools that are part of the RIUDL network. Tuition-paying students can apply for financial aid; additional application details are available at RIUDL’s website.

Olatunji is herself a veteran debater, having spent four years on the E3 (E-Cubed) Academy high school team in Providence. This year’s Summer Institute will have an immigration-related resolution, and Olatunji’s goal is to offer workshops that emphasize debate skills in which the students have expressed interest. “We try to facilitate, not teach,”she explains.

It’s not all work, however. Two field trips have been planned so far, including an outing to Boston’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, where students will participate in a simulated legislative session. You can’t argue with that.