How do we help kids succeed? One way is to engage them in fun intellectual activities.
Relying on suspending or excluding students doesn’t get to the root of behavior problems or make them more interested in school. But a new video, Up for Debate, shows how the Baltimore Urban Debate League has helped students become motivated learners who use passion and knowledge to challenge opposing debate teams, rather than teachers, and who get into college, rather than into trouble.
“A lot of my friends are locked up, dead, or…doing what they were doing when we were in high school,” said Baltimore Urban Debate League coach and former debater Deverick Murray in the video. “If not for debate, I really have no idea where I would be.”
The video follows Kaela Pittman, a gifted 13-year-old debater who Deverick coaches and mentors. Kaela had a history of fighting and talking back. But once she won her first trophy, she was hooked on debate. She now sees herself as a good debate – and a good student as well.
Kaela is not the only student who has benefited from debate. Students who participate in Baltimore Urban Debate League are three times less likely to misbehave. They are almost twice as likely to pursue college immediately after high school.
We, at OSI-Baltimore, believe that programs like debate improve students’ school behavior and increase academic achievement. Overuse of suspension and expulsion, on the other hand, has the opposite result. As Judith Browne Dianis from the Advancement Project explains in the video, “Even one suspension triples the chance that they [students] will be involved with the juvenile justice system that year.”
The simple truth is that children, who are engaged as Kaela is, use their energy and voices in positive ways. It’s a part of “Teen Parenting 101: without safe, fun and positive social and things to do, it is very difficult to keep adolescents out of trouble. This is as true in Baltimore City as it is in other counties in Maryland.
That’s the pathway to success.