GSI: Dmitri Seals

GSI: Dmitri Seals

Philosophy 98/198: Addressing Inequality through Urban Debate

Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL) Practicum


7:00-8:00 PM Thursday, Location TBD

Course Facilitators:

Mathew Wang Jeffrey Kuperman

Instructor of Record:

Professor Tim Crockett

Course Overview

The objective of this course is to expose its students to urban education and youth development and train them to be effective mentors and positive role models to urban youth. In the process, students will gain a working knowledge of logic and deployment of philosophical arguments such as utilitarianism in inner-city debate programs. To this end, students will work closely with staff of the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL), a local non-profit organization that works with Bay Area school districts to create and maintain debate teams at inner-city schools. Participants will study and gain experience in working with urban youth, supporting veteran urban educators, and applying philosophy and logic to policy problems and solutions. The course is worth 2 P/NP units.

Outcomes and Expectations

Meetings and research assignments will engage students in reflection on the institutional, programmatic, and personal components necessary to sustain the public-private partnership of an urban debate league. Students will discuss and gather information on partnering schools and districts, theories and best practices for youth development programs, and the specific needs and characteristics of the students served by the BAUDL. By the end of the semester, students should have a working understanding of what it takes to run a successful afterschool program serving an under-resourced urban public school district.

Students will work directly with students in Oakland public schools to build and maintain strong, motivated teams. Meetings and some small readings will help familiarize students with the social world of the young people served by BAUDL and aid reflection on the approaches and tactics that will most benefit those young people. Using paradigms of urban education and debate training to cut against each other, the course will encourage and support its students in developing plans and pedagogies that effectively motivate and enable the transformation of urban public school students into serious debaters and advocates. Further, students should be able to place their work in the context of urban school reform and situate it in relation to predominant pedagogical approaches.These pedagogical approaches will be explored in their philosophical implications for race and equality.

Course Content/Grading

There are many roles that Berkeley students can play in support of the BAUDL, making the most of their unique strengths and interests. This course is designed to allow students flexibility in tailoring their work with the BAUDL to their individual experience level and schedules.

To this end, course credit is earned through the accumulation of “points.” A passing grade will require that students meet all mandatory requirements and also earn 60 points across the course of the semester.

Mandatory Requirements

Attendance: Meetings will be held once every 2 weeks over the course of the semester, for a total of 8 meetings. Each meeting will typically last 2 hours. Because meetings are infrequent, attending each one is crucial. More than two unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.

Readings: Students are expected to complete the assigned readings each week before class. These readings will serve as important foundations for class discussions and work with BAUDL students.

Reflection Paper: A short (2-3 page, double spaced) paper will be due on the last class meeting. This paper should reflect on some aspect of the students’ experience with the BAUDL and relate those experiences to one or more of the course readings.

Specialized Tracks

Each student will choose one of two “tracks” to complete during the course. These tracks are designed to allow students to tailor their course participation to their individual levels of experience and comfort with debate and urban education.

Mentor Track:

Students pair with one of BAUDL’s debate teams and work with their coaches to build strong and happy teams. This includes attending weekly debate practices and working directly with students. This gives students a total of 45 points.


Students will be expected to attend training sessionsduring class time on the weeks we do not have all-class meetings to get a more in-depth discussion of debate concepts and teaching tools. Mentors-in-training will also be paired with a current mentor and will be responsible for providing weekly support, including giving input on curriculum design. This gives students a total of 30 points.

Elective Points

All students will need to complete some elective points to reach their 60 point requirement. The BAUDL has many needs for volunteers, and elective points give our participants an opportunity to take on unique roles at BAUDL tournaments and workshops and/or provide support through other logistical or research projects.

  • Tournaments – These occur once a month and require a whole-day commitment (usually 9 – 12 hours, including travel time) – 12 points each
  • Workshops – These occur once a month and require a half-day commitment (usually 6 – 8 hours) – 8points each
  • Research projects – 1-4 points each(value to be determined by facilitators on a case-by-case basis)
  • Logistical projects – 1-8 points each (value to be determined by facilitators on a case-by-case basis)

Students will be responsible for recording their points. These logs must be initialed by one of the league facilitators or BAUDL staff if the points are based on event attendance (workshops or tournaments).

Reading List & Schedule

Readings for each class will be posted up on the class website. Students will be expected to complete these readings before class.

Week 1 (January 28): Introduction to BAUDL

No reading. Please review syllabus.

Week 2 (February 4): Introduction to Policy Debate


Structure of debate rounds and the current high school debate topic.

Week 3 (February 11):The Case for Urban Debate Leagues

Mezuk, Briana. 2009. "Urban Debate and High School Educational Outcomes for African American Males: Evidence from the Chicago Debate League," The Journal of Negro Education.

Lee, Edward. 2005. Speech to the Baltimore Urban Debate League.

Week 4 (February 18): Affirmative Cases


Structure of affirmative cases and common affirmative cases on the current high school debate topic.

Week 5 (February 25): Teaching Policy Debate

Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL). 2010. BAUDL Debate Textbook. Self-published.

-For those unfamiliar with policy debate, read “Unit One: Introduction to Debate.”

-For those already familiar with policy debate, read at least one “activity” under each unit

Week 6 (March 3): Negative Disadvantages


Structure of negative disadvantages and how they can be applied to affirmative cases.

Week 7 (March 10): Urban Education

Carter, Prudence. 2003. “'Black' Cultural Capital, Status Positioning, and Schooling Conflicts for Low-Income African American Youth,” Social Problems 50(1): 136-155.

Week 8 (March 17): Negative Counterplans


Structure of negative counterplans and how they can be applied to affirmative cases.

Spring Break

Week 9 (TBD): Urban Education, Cont.

Delpit, Lisa and J.K. Dowdy, eds. 2002. The Skin We Speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York: The New Press.

-“Trilingualism” and “No Kinda Sense”

Delpit, Lisa. “The Silenced Dialogue”

Week 10 (March 31): Judging


How to judge debate rounds at BAUDL tournaments and workshops.

Week 11 (April 7): Communication and Debate

Fraser, Nancy. 1993. “Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy.” In Bruce Robbins, ed. The Phantom Public Sphere. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Young, Iris Marion. “Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy,” Political Theory, Vol. 29, No. 5 (Oct., 2001), pp. 670-690.

Week 12 (April 14): Synthesis


Discussion of debate strategy, incorporating lessons on affirmative and negative positions.

Week 13 (April 21): The Problems and Possibilities of Debate

Warner, Ede and John Bruschke. 2001. “'Gone on Debating': Competitive Academic Debate As A Tool of Empowerment.” Contemporary Journal of Argumentation and Debate 22: 1-28.

Warner, Ede. 2003. “Go Homers, Makeovers or Takeovers? A Privilege Analysis of Debate as a Gaming Simulation.” Contemporary Argumentation and Debate 24: 65-80.