"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sexton Leads Effort To Spread Urban Debate Success Nationally
In these times of conflict and unprecedented violence, too many of our citizens feel left out of the political discourse, fail to find their voice, or worse turn their backs on the democratic process. How many conflicts will we fail to stop and how many solutions will become lost in bureaucracy if we fail to engage in effective discourse? NYU President John Sexton warns that "We have lost the ability in our public discourse to speak to one another in a way that moves ideas forward, that can result in enlightenment, or at least reflection, and that ends in disagreement without rancor. Informed discussion of issues of importance is a basic premise of democracy For these reasons, the Associated Leaders of Urban Debate (ALOUD) is launching a National Campaign for Civic Discourse.
Chaired by John Sexton, ALOUD brings together organizations, corporations, foundations, school systems, diverse debate entities and individuals working on a bipartisan basis to spur civic engagement, public debate, and reasoned discourse in our schools, religious institutions and in the larger society. Initially, ALOUD will focus on student involvement in schools and urban communities building on the local success stories of debates transformative power. Robert Shrum, NYU Senior Fellow remarked that, For too long, high school debate has been primarily the preserve of suburban and more affluent students. Its power is ever present in certain schools but generally fails to reach into urban areas. When millions of kids are separated from the opportunity to debate, their education is inherently unequal.
A recent study noted that 89% of people between the ages of 15-25 are totally uninvolved in electoral or civic activities. Debate is a gateway to civic involvement.
Will Baker, ALOUDs Executive Director commented, "Weve seen locally what happens when debate arrives in these communities. A national study reported that debate can increase literacy rates as much as 25% in a single year. It changes lives by opening up young peoples eyes to the most important tool for improving their condition: their voice. They become engaged and realize they can be a powerful force to better their lives."
The Campaign will herald a new generation of responsible citizens anxious to shape their future and their world by discussing and debating the issues of the day. Already, ALOUD has developed partnerships with outstanding programs in cities across the country including New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston, Newark, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Washington DC, Baltimore, Louisville, Las Vegas, Burlington, Miami and Providence. In every place, there are those who recognize that without discourse, we lose the essence of education and democracy: the power of free expression.
BUDL Director Honored as Social Entrepreneur
Pam Spiliadis was one of four 2005 honorees selected by The B'MORE Fund with $5,000 award for her work with the Baltimore Urban Debate League. The B'MORE Fund (www.bmorefund.org) is a Giving Circle created by emerging leaders who are celebrating the work of social entrepreneurs in the region while at the same time becoming more informed about grantmaking, philanthropy, and the myriad of issues affecting our community. B'MORE Fund members are pooling resources and identifying, publicizing and celebrating individuals who, through their work, enrich the lives of Baltimore's residents. The BMORE Fund recognizes these individuals and their work by honoring them with cash awards made once each year.
Spiliadis was previously recognized in 2004 with a Harry and Jeannette Weinberg fellowship and continues to expand the presence of the urban debate in Baltimore. She will travel in her capacity as a Weinberg fellow to Hawaii to explore the potential of an increased presence for debate in that state.