No debate about it: This program works

April 23, 2014 8:45 AM

Greg Thomson

Tulane University students who enroll in the Aristotle of New Orleans course complete 40 hours of service learning by coaching middle school debate teams in three local schools. Some students, such as senior Lance Tran, decide to stick around and continue coaching even after the semester has ended.

Lance Tran

Tulane senior Lance Tran continues to teach middle school debaters although it's no longer a requirement for his coursework. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“Typically, coaching means going to the schools a couple times a week since this is usually an after-school activity,” says Tran, who also serves as president of the Tulane debate team. “So we go there, we have a lesson plan designed, and we have to get them to learn how to do the basic mechanics of debate, such as speech format, speech timing and researching the topics beforehand.”

The young debaters are learning vital critical thinking skills, while at the same time growing used to the intellectual experience of college. Ryan McBride, administrative assistant professor and the director of the debate program, says it is a win-win for everyone involved.

“Our students really get to know the kids on the teams,” says McBride. “You see them develop and you see them get better and they want to come back and keep coaching so that gives us continuity in the program.”

Tran and other students prepare the middle school debaters to compete in tournaments. Approximately 15 schools in the area compete against one another. Tulane is currently involved in debate programs at Sophie B. Wright Charter School, Benjamin Banneker Elementary School and Lafayette Academy Charter School.

Greg Thomson is a junior at Tulane University majoring in communication.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000