Chicago Debate Summer Institute Kicks Off the New Season

One hundred and two students from twenty-five schools throughout the city participated in the 14th annual Chicago Debate Summer Institute held at Westinghouse College Prep’s beautiful brand-new building during the second half of July.

The 2010 CDSI featured an impressive teaching staff that rivaled many summer university workshops:

  • Donny Peters, Director of Debate at Illinois State University
  • Deven Cooper, graduate assistant coach at Cal State University Fullerton and 2008 CEDA National Champion from Towson
  • Brandon Gordon, 7-year CSDI instructor, doctoral student at University of California Irvine and former Northwestern University debater
  • Kurt Hilgendorf, 6-year teacher and head debate coach at John Hope College Prep
  • Chris Wheat, CDL coach for Kenwood Academy and Dunbar, founder of Washington University St. Louis debate team, and recent University of Chicago MBA graduate
  • Ebony Rose, former University of Louisville debater and newly hired Phillips Academy social studies teacher, featured in Cross-X when at Kansas City Central
  • Ross Gordon, Emory University debater, 2010 NDT Octofinalist and 2009 Tournament of Champions Top Speaker and Illinois Varsity State Champion from New Trier High School
  • Kevin Hirn, Jeremiah Pickert and Nick Locke, CDL’s consecutive Chase Urban Debate National Champions, 2008-10
  • Lucy Hernandez and Lana Simpson, University of Wisconsin students and distinguished CDL alumnae from Thomas Kelly and Brooks College Prep respectively
  • Guest lecturer Wayne Tang, head debate coach at Maine East and patent attorney for Nixon Peabody LLP

Thirty brand-new JV debaters worked in labs with a curriculum specifically designed to introduce them to debate.  Returning CDL students were divided into Advanced Varsity and Intermediate Varsity labs by level of experience.

The curriculum included lectures that were enhanced by “smart-classroom” technology and PowerPoint presentations which were made possible by the new facilities at Westinghouse.  The instruction also included faculty demonstration debates, flowing and speaking drills, practice speeches, mini-debates, diagnostic assessment of theory knowledge, and learning games meant to engage debaters and reinforce concepts introduced. One big hit with students was a session titled “How Not to Debate” where faculty members demonstrated in a comedy format a collection of bad debate habits and techniques.

Junior Varsity Instructor Brandon Gordon describes the learning environment at CDSI: “Not only did the teaching staff have a very high caliber of expertise, but the diversity of backgrounds, styles and philosophies helped empower the students to believe that debate was not only something they could master and be good at but that it also a good deal of fun.” Advanced Varsity Instructor and ISU Director of Debate Donny Peters said, “I had a great two weeks at CDSI, this was a well run camp.”

The outstanding attendance rates — daily attendance close to 90%, tournament attendance nearly 85% for both days — provided clear evidence of student engagement in the curriculum and program.mThe CDSI featured two three-day coach training courses: Introduction to Debate Coaching for new and relatively new coaches, and Intermediate Coaching, for coaches with 2-5 years of experience in the CDL.  Thirty-two coaches, mostly teachers, took the two courses, producing 768 teacher-hours of professional development for CDL coaches.  The courses were also held at Westinghouse, which provided them access to the entire CDSI staff, who provided planned guest appearances and led specific topic discussions.  Coaches could also participate in the student learning and practice debating taking place throughout the building.

Some representative feedback:

Adan Meza, senior at Hubbard:

“The CDSI was an enlightening experience with some of the brightest minds I have ever encountered. The lab leaders were completely committed to the overall well being of their students as well as inviting new perspectives on the many topics presented. CDSI is a fun program which lets you indulge with ideas of other fellow debaters and truly learn what it means to work together as a team. As a debater entering my third year, I can still say CDSI is one of my most favorite parts of debate.”

Tyona Golden, sophomore debater from Morgan Park:

“Spending the last two weeks of my summer at CDSI was probably one of the greatest things I could have done.  I enjoyed my time there and learned so much that I never knew before; not just from my lab leaders but also from the other students.  The lab leaders I had, although we joked around, were able to get right to business and teach me what I needed to know for this upcoming school year.  I would, will, and already have recommended this camp to new debaters who feel they will need help on next year’s topic.”

David Hayes, Head Coach at Kings College Prep H.S.:

“I had one year of experience in the Chicago Debate League already, but I found the Introduction to Debate Coaching course very beneficial.  The instructor translated all the core fundamentals of policy debate into terms and references that all the attending teachers could comprehend and oriented everyone on the culture and norms of coaching in the CDL.  We also received an introduction to the key arguments on this year’s topic.  Excellent, essential course; I recommend it to any coach who is new or needs a refresher.”