HISD Students Launch 2011–2012 Debate Season with Out of This World Topic

Houston Urban Debate League hosts Space Policy Day for over 200 HISD debate students

August 01, 2011

Throughout the 2011-12 school year, high school debate students from across the country, and here in Houston, will research and debate the many complex issues facing the space industry. To give HISD students a head start, the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL), in conjunction with the Baker Institute for Public Policy, recently held a Space Policy Day. The day long seminar placed space industry leaders, including astronaut Scott J. Kelly, in front of nearly 200 HISD debate students from 22 different high schools.

“They have one topic all year, but the debate both sides of the topic,” says HUDL Deputy Director Justin Whyte. “Half the time they will be affirming that we should go to space, colonize and explore…and the other half of the time they will be arguing the reasons against space exploration.”

The Space Policy Day at the Baker Institute was part of a week long HUDL camp for HISD students that featured lectures and workshops from college and high school debate coaches and collegiate debaters. The camp was free and also allowed students a chance to experience college life by living in dorms at the University of Houston and by attending college lectures.

HISD students who attended the camp say participating in debate with HUDL has changed their lives. “My freshman year, to tell you the truth, I was kind of slacking, but ever since I took up debate it has changed my whole perspective and ideology of life,” said Reagan High School Senior Alexis Morales. “You learn critical thinking, organization, preparation—everything about debate you can use during the rest of your life, so it is definitely a good activity.”

HUDL is the nation’s fastest growing and second largest urban debate league, serving nearly 1,000 HISD students.

“There is nothing more rewarding than meeting a shy and reserved student at the beginning of the year and then seeing them come out of their shell,” said Whyte. “It’s very empowering for the students, for their families, and for their communities, because they have a voice and they learn how not to be afraid to use it.”