New York City Urban Debate League: Investigating Youth's Experiences in a "Democracy in Action" Afterschool Program

Completed in 2006

Project Director: Georgia Hall, Ph.D.

This research project investigated the approach and activities of the New York City Urban Debate League (NYCUDL) and commented on how youth, through participation in these leagues, develop democracy skills and experiences that can affect personal change. Urban debate leagues organized interscholastic debate as an academic competition and promote debate as a valuable learning tool. This research study:

  1. described the components of the debate program
  2. profiled the youth and adult participants
  3. provided an analysis of the “debate” approach and activities as an example of "democracy in action"
  4. presented an exploration of the experiences of and impacts on participating youth
  5. investigated the infrastructure that supports the delivery of urban debate activities

There is a good amount of literature describing the elements of debate and how skills developed in debate may transfer to other endeavors — such as creating a stronger foundation for academic achievement, etc. The purpose of this study was to look deeper into how youth actually experience the democratic ideals and skills that form the foundation of a debate program, and in what ways those experiences influence the youth's understanding of, participation in, and consideration of democracy. 

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