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Grant number like: EE-50608-10

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English-Speaking Union of the United States (Washington, DC 20037-8068)
Karen Elaine Jeff (Project Director: May 2010 to October 2012)

Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development
Education Programs

$25,000 (approved)
$25,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2010 – 6/30/2011

The English-Speaking Union Pilot Debate Program

The ESU, in partnership with ALOUD (the Associated Leaders of Urban Debate), is developing a debating project for middle school children. We've called on local universities to help us work with school systems and our own member volunteers to either establish a debating program for Middle School children or broaden an existing program to include more children. Currently in a pilot stage in four locales--More Country North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio, Louisville Kentucky, and Columbus Ohio--the intention is to replicate the project through our Branch network in 71 communities nationwide. Our project brings together experts in the field of debate plus middle school teachers along with our own member/volunteers who represent a cross section of the community all working together to enhance young people's language skills and critical thinking. The project involves teacher training, training of members as judges, work with the students in the format of debate and in research a common topic, then finally a culminating project which can range from non-competitive demonstrations of presentation and argument to the formulation of persuasive arguments for the more complex and formalized tournaments. The toopics chosen connect children to the contemporary forces impacting the humanities and encourage them to express their opinions aloud. In judging competitions, our own volunteer members engage in a form of lifelong learning in terms of the topic itself and connect with public education in a way that they would not ordinarily do. For the students, the project involves language, research and rhetoric skills, fosters self esteem and cultivates a belief that they have an individual role to play in effecting societal change. Following the initial stages of the pilot, we concluded that in its first year the program needs more support in the field to identify and engage local expert resources in training both teachers and our volunteer members.