On July 22, over 100 students representing 30 middle and high schools congregated in the auditorium of Dunbar Vocational Academy to kick off another year of the Chicago Debates Summer Institute (CDSI). These dedicated young scholars spent the next two weeks immersing themselves in all things policy debate, while also forging friendships with students from across the city that they will be able to build upon throughout the tournament season.
CDSI is open to debaters at every level, from 6th graders who are just entering the world of debate, to some of the most successful high school debaters in the city. Students are separated by age and experience into different labs led by amazing instructors, many of whom are alumni of Chicago Debates and former CDSI campers themselves. Instructors structured their curriculum based on the needs of each lab. For some groups, this was a basic introduction to debate, while other more experienced groups worked on conducting independent research and constructing their own arguments. No matter the experience level, each lab worked with this year’s Core Files, a 300-page document of evidence prepared by Chicago Debates staff and coaches. CDSI provides a great opportunity for students to explore these files in small groups led by expert debaters, ensuring they enter the season ready to compete.
Just as debate is about so much more than running arguments, CDSI was not all lab work. Campers were able to participate in activities designed to deepen their civic understanding, including a Social Justice Seminar that provided student-focused roundtable discussions exploring pressing issues facing society today like racism, allyship, and discrimination in education. Campers also attended an event at Dunbar led by Mayor Lightfoot remembering the 1919 Chicago riots. Both of these activities prompted in-depth discussions in lab groups that encouraged students to relate what they learn in class, and in their debate research, to their own lives and the world around them.
The two-week camp concluded with a two-day tournament, giving campers an opportunity to demonstrate all they had learned. In just two short weeks, students who had never before heard of policy debate were participating in full tournament rounds. We can’t wait to see how much more they grow throughout the year!