Last spring, IDEA hosted several debate workshops and tournaments in New Orleans, Louisiana, for teachers and students interested in starting debate clubs in their schools. IDEA and National Forensic League staff, as well as three professors from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, provided debate knowledge and skills to the participants.
Ryan McBride, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, attended the workshops as well, and was inspired to action. As part of Tulane's undergraduate public service requirement, McBride had his fall semester persuasive writing students teach debate in New Orleans middle schools. The in-school debate sessions culminated in a beginners' tournament on the Tulane campus, which included 65 participants from five schools. The topic of the debate was whether zoos do more harm than good, in which the students learned first-hand about the situation with a field trip to the Audobon Zoo.
Not only did the tournament educate students about debate and argumentation, but also provided a rich cultural experience for the middle school students, and his students as well. Professor McBride said "It was a mixture of accents, socio-economic backgrounds, and races... After the fantastically successful debate tournament, everyone is on board. The teachers and principals are enthusiastic and the debate teams are galvanized and eager for the next debate. I can't tell you how amazing this experience has been for my Tulane students as well. As coaches they developed strong bonds with their middle school students and worked together to develop the skills that allowed their students to perform wonderfully at the debate we held on the Tulane University campus."
Professor McBride's inspiration passed on to his students, as he says that many are coming back next semester to build on the progress made, and they are also starting a new student organization on campus called the Debate Education Society. McBride and his students plan to hold debate tournaments on campus every semester.