At the Kalamazoo Urban Debate League
our mission is to produce and support
excellent critical thinkers in high schools through policy format debate.
Historically, well-funded travel debate teams from private high schools have
dominated high school debate because of their increased access to coaches,
evidence databases, the ability to pay for residential summer camps and other
resources. For a majority of students on the west side of Michigan, the last
ten years of budget cuts have meant little to no access to high school debate
In an analysis of the Chicago
Debate League, Dr. Briana Mezuk et al. witnessed 19% higher graduation rates
amongst participants, that participants were 3 times less likely to drop out,
had increased college readiness, higher ACT scores, as well as an average GPA
almost a half point higher than non-participants. Linked here.
study also showed that there was no significant correlation between
participation in debate and the poverty level when debate is accessible.
In the Kalamazoo region we
have the schools and students that want to compete, but only Portage Northern
High School supports a travel debate team. Without other Kalamazoo programs,
this requires them to travel across the state, rent out hotel rooms, go out to
eat and so on. This adds up quick. The Kalamazoo Urban Debate League offers a
real answer to this dilemma, both in the empirical successes and the
affordability of urban debate programs.
It is estimated that an Urban
Debate League (UDL) reduces the average seasonal cost per student by over half
and with enough support some UDLs are even able to disburden schools districts
even more! It makes me very proud to say that this association with the debate
program at MSU, and more specifically with the Spartan Debate Institute, will
allow us to offer our member schools and students heavily discounted rates to
residential summer camps and coaching clinics.
Here in Michigan, I have
watched in awe as the Detroit Urban Debate League (DUDL) has reintroduced
debate programs at 16 public schools in metro Detroit and now has over 260
active participants, all since their founding in 2009. Also noteworthy is that
the DUDL has maintained a 100% graduation rate for their high school
participants amidst a period of 38-70% graduation rates for Detroit Public
Schools. With a regional institution in place on the west side of the state, we
will be able to provide coaching, judges and resources for teams that can
provide this very real academic benefit to our regional schools. This will
allow the reintroduction of one of the most important scholastic activities in
our regional high schools: debate.
Most responses to the KUDL
sound something like “Oh, I didn’t know we had a debate league!” Well, this is
our first year in action. The league was officially founded in March 2013, and
as of April 18th, we have legal non-profit status in the state of Michigan. In
this short period of time we have accomplished a lot including securing an
excellent debate staff. Our executive director, Hayden Uihlein, founded the
league and is the current head coach of the Portage Northern High School debate
program. Last year, Northern's novices placed first at the Michigan novice state
championship. Our assistant director, Jim Freeman, is a former college debater
from the New School who has worked with the NY urban debate league. Jim also
popular policy debate blog. During his college career, Jim was nominated for
the Michael K Davis award for the best NE college debater without high school
experience.Well now he's returning home to the Kalamazoo area to help ensure that no others from the Kalamazoo region might be nominated by giving them the opportunity to debate that he did not have in High School. Our tournament
director is Brita Bliss. For those of you in the debate world, Brita runs the
tab room. We are also training a slew of volunteer judges and have found area
college students incredibly interested in the prospect of learning to judge
high school debates.
Here is a list of our
presently affiliated organizations:
Michigan State University Debate - Spartan Debate Institutes
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
Urban Debate League (DUDL)
I should note that though we
did not receive the Arcus Prize, we have not lost our vision.
If you would like a receipt from the KUDL contact us at Kurbandebateleague@gmail.com