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GVSU to provide high school debate tournament

Posted on January 29, 2010

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- The first Grand Valley State University Debate Championship tournament for high school students, will take place February 4-6 on the Allendale campus.

Debates will begin on Thursday, February 4, at 12:30 p.m., in the Kirkhof Center. On Friday and Saturday, debates will be held in Kirkhof and Lake Superior Hall, beginning at 9:30 a.m. All debates are open to the public. Media are welcome to attend.

Danielle Wiese Leek, an assistant professor in Grand Valley's School of Communications, said research has consistently shown that participation in policy debate helps students develop skills in reading comprehension and oral communication.

"Students who debate have higher graduation rates, better academic performance, and more self-confidence than their peers," she said.  "Unfortunately, Michigan's economic challenges have made it more and more difficult for high schools to support academic activities like debate."

Leek will use a Presidential Service Learning Scholars award to sponsor the low-cost debate championship at Grand Valley. Additional support from the School of Communications and community donors will go toward purchasing trophies for the winning teams. Students from Leek's Evolution of Communication class are serving as support staff for the competition.

"It's a natural fit for a course that centers on the relationship between communication and civic engagement in America," she said. "This is a service-learning course, which means that students participate in service activities which provide hands-on opportunities to engage course concepts. Through reflection, the communications students will develop a rich understanding of why both volunteering, and speech, are consistent themes in writings about the power of democracy and community in the U.S."

Fifty students from across the state will meet to debate this year's policy resolution - Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States. In this cross-examination style debate, two-person teams will affirm the resolution by offering a plan to increase social services such a medical care, food stamps, and mortgage assistance. Teams switch sides to negate the resolution as students move through six rounds of preliminary competition. The top four teams move on to compete in the semi-final and then final rounds of the championship.

For more information, contact Danielle Wiese Leek at (616) 331-8090.


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