Debate is offered in suburban, private and elite public schools, but is often missing from urban public high schools. Formal debate is a structured academic activity and has a special role to play in education. Debate competition involves a clash of ideas using research and reasoning. Through debate, students are challenged to examine issues of public policy in terms of their legal, social, economic, political, moral, and ethical implications.
Over the last decade, several innovative educators and a handful of funders worked to return debate to America’s public high schools through a competitive venture called urban debate. Urban debate leaders focused on the neediest students in the neediest schools first. In each case, these students gained a renewed sense of self-worth through debate and went on to succeed at the highest levels of competition against students from elite public and private schools. The power of urban debate was self-evident and some educators moved beyond the competitive outlets to use urban debate in their classroom and in public forums.