Annual Patriot Debate Institute Has Another Successful Summer

Middle and high school students attend camp in largest-ever numbers to learn from a host of experts

by Kristie Cramer

Annual Patriot Debate Institute Has Another Successful Summer
Some of the Debate Institute members on a visit to D.C.

Each summer, the coaches and debaters of the GMU Debate Team convene on campus to instruct a three week debate camp called the GMU Patriot Debate Institute. The summer workshop is open to middle school and high school students who want to improve their public speaking and debate skills. This past summer, the GMU Patriot Debate Institute had record-breaking attendance, with 85 camp participants. The campers were taught research, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills and learned about pressing public policies from the coaches and debaters of the GMU Debate Team as well as expert guest lecturers.  

This summer, camp participants were able to hear and speak with many impressive experts. Debaters interested in environmental issues were able to speak with Fred Gorrell and Isiah Bolden from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Richard Innes of Obama’s Ocean Commission. Dr. Peggy Maddox, a GMU professor and appointee to Virginia's Health Reform Implementation Commission, spoke with students about the hotly contested Affordable Care Act. Professor Esther Yook, GMU Associate Professor of Communication and renowned author, spoke with students about effective and persuasive public speaking presentations. Dr. Eric Shariev, GMU international relations professor and author, visited the camp to lecture on international relations. Dr. Mark Sagoff, once labeled "America's most trenchant environmental philosopher” by the Break Through Institute,talked with students about environmental ethics in policy making. Dr. Wayne Froman, Associate Professor of Contemporary European Continental Philosophy, taught participants about the philosophy of Martin Hiedegger, a prominent German philosopher. Johanna Bockman, Associate Professor of Sociology, spoke with students about the economic philosophyof Neo-liberalism. In addition to these experts, members of the camp had the opportunity to speak with the camp staff about various government policies and current events, as well as theories for debate and effective communication. Students who stayed for the third week of camp were also able to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The camp was attended by students from states that span the country: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Washington D.C.

After a short rest following the Patriot Debate Institute, the GMU Debate Team gathered together for their annual pre-season retreat and work week in mid-August. The team spent a week discussing the new debate topic - resolved: the United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following in the United States: marihuana, online gambling, physician-assisted suicide, prostitution, the sale of human organs - improving debate skills, and enjoying being reunited after the summer. The team’s preparation paid off on September 13-15 when the team kicked off their season at the Kansas City Debate Tournament at the University of Missouri. Junior debater Isaac Brown and sophomore debater Austin Oliver placed 24th in the country out of 150 debaters and were cleared for the double-octofinal round of the tournament. The team competes next at Georgia State University on September 19-22.