This week, columnist Libby Ashton discussed the documentary “Waiting for Superman” and encouraged re-evaluating what works in American public schools (Together, we can be Superman, 11/09/2010).

What the American education system needs is not a “Superman,” but rather a generation of American students who see it as “cool” to be someone who stands out in the classroom or someone who knows the answers and always comes to class prepared. Without this mentality, the system will never get better. If a student’s peers, teachers and parents don’t recognize and reward those who attempt to succeed, American education will continue to decline.

Fortunately, there is a solution that is especially relevant to University students: the Detroit Urban Debate Education program, often called DUDE. The program, with cooperation from the Department of Sociology and the Ginsberg Center, sends students into Detroit to teach debate skills to public school students who have no experience with the activity.

But the program is about a lot more than teaching debate. It’s about introducing a new culture and mindset into the Detroit school system — one in which those who do research, put in hard work and become confident in their public speaking abilities are winners. By creating a framework for education in which a sort of points system is placed on learning, students begin to see their education in a whole new light.

As a member of DUDE, after just two months in the classroom, I have witnessed this transformation in dozens of students who are constantly pushing themselves to learn — not only because someone is telling them to, but also because they want to do it for themselves. I am confident that if the program expands, we can have a significant impact on the way education is conceptualized. It’s no Superman, but it’s a start.

David Seidman
LSA freshman

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