Virtual Debate Offers Inter-league Collaboration
MNUDL alumni are valued members of not just our community, but the whole Urban Debate League network.
Since graduation, Alex Dresdner has stayed busy: she studied in Brazil for a year through Rotary International’s youth exchange program, began studying International Relations and Environmental Science at Emory University, and made time to stay involved in debate through teaching at the Matthew Ornstein Summer Debate Institute for the past three years.
“My favorite part about teaching debate is seeing students discover the ways the debate topics can personally relate to their lives, and finding the argumentative niches that excite them and they can make their own,” says Alex. “It’s always been the best part of my summer, and I’m grateful to WUDL for taking a chance on hiring a random Minnesota high school graduate back in 2018.”
This year, Alex was joined by former Roseville area debater and Washburn High School coach, Delia Rossini. This summer, she brought her expertise across the nation, without having to leave her neighborhood. She served as a debate coach for WUDL’s camp, too – all virtually.
Learn more about their experience:
Why Summer Camp?
“I was excited by the idea of working at a camp that not only was with another urban debate league, but was with debaters in a different part of the country,” Delia says. “Summer debate camps are important on so many levels. Not only is it a great way to get to know debaters from other schools, it gives students more opportunities to work with other debate folks/coaches than their own. It can provide a great space to improve skills, prepare for the upcoming topic, and continue doing an activity they love during the off-season.”
Delia has previously been a staff member at MDAW, with all the in-person experience entails: running group labs, eating lunch with students, co-hosting activity nights, and more. Instructors were challenged to adapt their skills to the virtual debate format. “Online debate requires students to have a decent internet connection as well as only interacting with other debaters and instructors virtually. This can change the way we’re required to teach. The camp has to work harder to foster a good teaching environment, have strong communication, and find ways to keep the days fun,” she explains.
Approaching This Year’s Topic: Criminal Justice Reform
Both former Minnesota debaters believe the criminal justice topic will prove valuable to students. “I’m definitely excited about the upcoming topic,” says Delia. “I expect a lot of different affirmatives and for students to have stronger ties to their work than in previous years. This is a resolution many debaters have a strong opinion on which can make for both interactive but also informative debates.”
Alex elaborated, “I find debate’s largest advantage to be the way students are introduced to radical fields of thought – ideas that would never be taught in traditional public school classrooms… Prison abolition was one of the most eye-opening arguments that I researched and ran as a policy debater… I was able to apply this vocabulary to manifestations of the prison system in my own life.”
She notes that the WUDL had an important role in bringing forward the criminal justice topic. “My WUDL colleague, Colton Gilbert, wrote the topic paper for criminal justice, and I want to shout him out for writing such an awesome paper forefronting a topic that is intimately connected to the daily realities of Black and brown people in this country. Obviously, the topic is very ‘timely’ in that the country is going through a period of national reckoning on issues of anti-blackness and police brutality, but I think it’s important to note that mass incarceration and policing have been part of our social fabric since slavery… I hope that the topic will open up a space for students to be creative and produce scholarship in ways that are perhaps more relevant to their own lives and communities in this socio-political moment.”
Making Virtual Debate Work
Making virtual debate work will not be easy. But this challenge is also an opportunity. Virtual learning has already allowed MNUDL alumni to benefit the nationwide urban debate community, and will continue to help us come together during a time when debate education is more important than ever. Alex notes, “If there is a silver lining to online debate, it might be that some debate teams that have issues finding quality local judges and coaches may be able to expand their search for participants. Teams that experienced structural barriers to traveling may be able to attend national tournaments they would never be able to compete at otherwise.”
Help make virtual debate accessible to all students. By joining our monthly giving program with a recurring gift of $30, you’ll help provide headsets to two debaters each month. bit.ly/GiveDebate