UAW-Ford has a long and rich history of successfully fighting for its members and underserved communities across the nation where it has a presence. This history is permeated with negotiations rooted in skillful debates and strategic tactics, aimed to persuade entities to agree with the UAW’s empowering platforms, especially in the automotive industry.
On Friday, April 27, UAW-Ford was responsible for a different type of debate and persuasion, as it sponsored Debate in the D. Held at Detroit Preparatory High School at Northwestern on the city’s west side, the two-round collegiate debate featured teams from Morehouse College, Spelman College, Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan-Flint.
Each team consisted of two debaters, with one team debating the affirmative and the other debating the opposition. Each exhibition consisted of four constructive speeches and two rebuttal speeches. The debate featured two resolutions/topics.
Resolution No. 1: This house believes single sex schools are good for education. Spelman’s two debaters affirmed and argued in favor of the motion. Central Michigan University’s debate team negated and argued in opposition.
Resolution No.: This house believes that public colleges/universities should be tuition free. The University of Michigan-Flint affirmed and argued in favor of the motion, while Morehouse negated and argued in opposition.
The debate was facilitated in front of approximately 620 high school students representing 12 Detroit Public Schools Community District schools. As the debate advanced through its various stages, the students in attendance respectfully responded to the various points and counter points of each affirmation and argument.
After two hours of debate, Spelman College and Morehouse College were victors, based on the two teams receiving the loudest response from the audience. The winning debate team members were Spelman’s Jamilla Clark, a sophomore political science major and Angelique Southern, a sophomore international studies major. Morehouse’s winning team members were Mati’ Baker, a senior African American Studies major and William Coggins, a senior computer science major.
“It was very exciting to win this debate,” said Angelique Southern, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “This was actually my first time doing a debate exposition in a setting like this with a crowd of people. It was great seeing and hearing the crowd’s reactions. It was a bit intimidating, but very exciting knowing that we would be judged by high school students.”
Baker, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, agreed.
“The win was great,” said Baker, who is president of the Morehouse debate team. “It was a pleasure to debate in front of high school students so that they could learn more about debating. There were, however, some challenges during the debate, because we were debating against the University of Michigan-Flint, which had a home audience. However, we tailored our arguments to persuade the crowd, and at the end of the day, we got the win.”
Debate in the D, now in its second year, is the brainchild of Jimmy Settles, UAW-Ford’s vice president. According to Settles, several years ago he was invited to watch a debate in Connecticut which involved high school students. He was impressed that the young people were able to debate their different ideas and positions in a respectful manner using persuasive tactics, logic and wit. Last year, Settle arranged for UAW-Ford to sponsor the first Debate in the D at Detroit’s Mumford High School.
“I felt such a debate in Detroit would help our young people learn how to discuss opposing viewpoints without engaging in conflict,” said Settles, who will retire next month after a 50-year association with the UAW. “I felt that it will teach our youth the art of constructive debate, while teaching them conflict resolution and developing effective communication skills.”
“I would love to see debate teams in every middle and high school in the Detroit Public Schools Community District,” he said. “I believe it would change the culture of our youth, and it would teach young people to talk and listen and understand other people’s viewpoints.”
“I love to debate because it’s so intellectual, but it’s also a lot of fun,” said Southern, who speaks Chinese and plans to study in China later this year. “I think academic types of activities get this reputation that they can’t be fun or exciting. But debate is an activity that even if you don’t necessarily support a certain side or viewpoint, you can still learn about a different perspective that you had not previously thought about.”