Opinion
Curriculum Letter to the Editor

Clearing Up Possible Confusion About Urban Debate Leagues

April 29, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

Your article “Leagues Revive Debate in City Schools” (April 16, 2008) mischaracterizes the work of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, or NAUDL, and the Associated Leaders of Urban Debate, or ALOUD, in the statement, “While [ALOUD] helps fit debate into schools several ways, [NAUDL] has embraced a public-private-partnership model that has enabled Chicago and Baltimore to grow into powerhouse leagues.”

Baltimore’s model is not the model used by NAUDL. The Baltimore Urban Debate League is a 501(c)(3) organization that administers the city’s urban debate program. The support that it enjoys from the leadership of Baltimore’s schools reflects years of relationship-building and the alignment of debate with objectives. The group’s success—a 2006 Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and a feature on the television program “60 Minutes”—mirrors ALOUD’s proven methods 100 percent.

The use of public-private partnerships is not unique to NAUDL. ALOUD relies on such partnerships. The actual difference is that ALOUD works flexibly with partner programs to identify those best positioned to sustain debate in a city.

Stakeholders have differing needs and capacities. If we believe debate helps kids, it is imperative to examine how we embrace debate in each community. Flexibility has led to success in Seattle, Atlanta, New York City, and elsewhere, with universities and nonprofits playing central roles. ALOUD has helped Baltimore develop media strategies, fund development, and evaluate methods.

The confusion regarding Baltimore’s organization may stem from references to our program on the NAUDL Web site. We will work to correct elements that might be misleading about our history.

ALOUD’s board, led by New York University President John Sexton, and of which I am a member, includes political commentator Robert Shrum, former Baltimore superintendent Bonnie Copeland, and corporate leaders from Pitney Bowes, MTV, and Textron Inc. That leadership, plus 20 years of experience creating successful debate initiatives for at-risk youths, excites us about prospects for serving new and existing urban debate communities.

As we expand, we encourage stakeholders to visit www.debateleaders.org to learn what debate does for children.

Pam Spiliadis

Executive Director

Baltimore Urban Debate League

Baltimore, Md.

A version of this article appeared in the April 30, 2008 edition of Education Week as Clearing Up Possible Confusion About Urban Debate Leagues

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