Civic Engagement

The Center for Civic Engagement

Among Bard’s basic principles is a fundamental belief in the link between liberal education and democracy, and Bard is firmly committed to promoting and sustaining projects that engage its students, faculty, and administrators with some of the most important issues facing society. Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement supports, coordinates, and promotes the wide array of initiatives that define Bard as a private institution in the public interest. Whether it is in social service organizations in the Hudson Valley, in prisons, in high schools in New York, Newark, New Orleans, and California’s Central Valley, or in universities in Russia, the West Bank, and Kyrgyzstan, Bard is always innovating and engaging. The Bard Debate Union is proud to be a part of this civic engagement initiative through various debate outreach projects.

Debate in the Red Hook Middle School

The Bard Debate Union has partnered with the Red Hook School District to develop the first ever Red Hook debate program! The program began in Fall 2010 with the help of Paul Finch (Red Hook School District Superintendent), Frank Knobloch (School Board), Eleanor Davis (Red Hook Education Foundation), and of course, Paul Marienthal (Associate Dean of Civic Engagement and Director of the Bard TLS program). Through the program, a member of the Bard Debate Union visits the Red Hook Middle School every two weeks in order to work with students on speech and argumentation skills and to organize exciting classroom debates! Current and past project participants include: Lee Gensler, Zachary Israel, and Radley Glasser.

Zach Israel ’12 teaching in the Red Hook Middle School

Debate in the Red Hook High School

Given the tremendous success of the middle school program, the Bard Debate Union began working with the Red Hook High School in Fall 2011 to help them to found a debate club as well. Faculty Adviser of the Bard Debate Union, Ruth Zisman, helped to get the program moving and now we are excited to say that we have a program very similar to the one in the Middle School functioning in the High School. One Bard Debater goes to the high school every two weeks during club meeting time and helps the debate club to have exciting in- class debates, to do debate drills and training sessions, and to improve their public speaking skills. Current and past project participants include: Lee Gensler and Hanze Song.

Debate in Rhinebeck and Kingston Schools

Beginning in 2013, Bard debaters have been helping Rhinebeck High School and St. Joe’s Middle School in Kingston to help get their debate programs off the ground. We were very excited to welcome both schools to our 2nd Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament and hope to continue to help them to expand their programs in the years to come. Looks like debate is alive and well in the Hudson Valley! Current and past project participants include: Shaya French, Annie Cockrell, Ian Busher, and Radley Glasser.

The Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College

The Bard Debate Union hosted the First Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College on March 9th, 2012. The tournament hosted students from all three Bard High School Early Colleges, Red Hook High School, Rhinebeck High School, and the Red Hook Middle School. The tournament featured two full rounds of debate for all participants, a pizza lunch, and an awards ceremony for the top placing teams and speakers in each division. It was such a success that we were thrilled to make this an annual tradition. The Bard Debate Union hosted the 2nd Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College on Friday, March 1, 2013 and the 3rd Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard on Friday, February 28, 2014. The tournament continues to grow in size in each year and thus to become a bigger and better event than ever before!

President Botstein speaks to tournament participants!

Debate in the Bard Prison Initiative

The Bard Debate Union is also working to integrate debate training and education into the innovative and world-renown Bard Prison Initiative. David Register (Bard Debate Coach) established the first BPI debate club at Eastern Correctional Facility in the summer of 2013. The team now has over 20 members and meets with David weekly to discuss debate topics and stage practice debates. The BPI team also hosted its first event–a public debate against West Point–at Eastern Correctional Facility in April 2014. Members of the Bard Debate Union in Annandale have the opportunity to collaborate with BPI debaters by working as BPI Debate Fellows, conducting research for the BPI team members to use in their debates. Of course, prison debates have a long history of success, as attested to by Malcolm X, perhaps the world’s most famous prison debate team member.

BPI vs. West Point Debate (April 2014)

BPI vs. West Point Debate (April 2014)