Debate in the Neighborhood: IDEA and the Interfaith Center of New York

The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) New York office, in partnership with the Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY), plans to establish three debate clubs at faith-based organizations and community centers for 9th through 12th grade students. The program aims to bring debate beyond the conventional school environment directly to immigrant and first-generation students, giving them access to an enriching educational tradition. Additionally, the program aspires to foster understanding, cooperation, and a free and lively exchange of ideas among students from diverse of cultures, ethnicities, and religious traditions demonstrating that opposing views can be explored in ways that connect rather than divide people.

Centered on “Securing Liberty”, a text published by IDEA about reconciling the threat of terrorism and democratic value in the post 9/11 United States, students will learn basic debate and communication skills within their own groups for the first 6 weeks of the program. In April, during the students' Spring Break, all three groups will come together for a mock-tournament, and students will then be divided into mixed teams in preparation for the final debate, taking place in June. The mixed teams will work together and prepare for a debate from “Securing Liberty”, in hopes to foster communication and understanding amongst the various youth groups.

After the initial launch event, which is scheduled to take place in February, five consecutive weekly sessions will take place at each sites home base. These sessions will give the students a chance to engaged in practice debate activities, be introduced to the “Securing Liberty” theme and learn the basics of preparing a case and debating. Activities will focus on public speaking, presentation skills, as well as discussing issues affecting each community. Using media and technology, the aim is to get the students out into the communities, practicing their newly learned skills, as well as engaging their community on important topics. For example, IDEA will loan each student a FLIP camera to interview members of their community on issues they feel are important to them as a way to engage both the students and the general public.

In April, there will be a three day mixed team session. At this event, students will debate each group on a topic that has previously been announced. IDEA will run a diagnostic and after the tournament, evenly put students into mixed groups for the final June tournament. Over the three days, the students will go over the “Securing Liberty” book – doing activities and exercises based on the IDEA lesson plan.

In May, a final topic will be announced for a June tournament. Students will begin preparing in their mixed teams for the tournament. Consecutive sessions will be devoted to in-depth analysis and research on the motion, skill building, and practice debates with their mixed teams in preparation for a June tournament.

The mixed team tournament will take place over several after-school sessions in June, and will be open to the public.

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