Launching Young Minds to a New Frontier

To boldly go where thousands of students have gone before

Hundreds of students from across Michigan attended the Mackinac Center’s 2011 High School Debate Workshops to learn more about this year’s national debate topic, “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.”

More than 12,000 debate students, coaches and teachers have attended the Center’s workshops over the past 23 years, receiving valuable research material and debate tactics from nationally acclaimed experts. Participating this year were: Adrian High School, Blissfield High School, Hudson Area High School, Lenawee Christian School, Detroit Cody High School, Detroit International Academy, Davison Faith Baptist School, Saginaw Heritage High School, Lake Fenton High School, Detroit Renaissance High School, Romeo High School, Detroit University Prep High School, Midland Academy, Holt High School, Kalamazoo Phoenix High School, Rockford High School, Zion Christian School, Crossroads Charter Academy, Forest Hills Central High School, Interlochen Academy and Petoskey High School.

“I appreciate the Center’s workshop,” said Lisa Russcher of Zion Christian School. “Every year I love taking my students to it because they learn so much and it helps them prepare very well for each debate that they enter.”

“The information presented was well-researched and well-presented,” said Pamela Tow-Conley, long-time debate coach at Forest Hills Central High School, who has brought her students to the Grand Rapids debate workshop for several years.

“This is my first year debating, and I will use the information and techniques given to me by your speakers,” said Jordan Hayes of Hudson High School.

You can watch a video of participating students and teachers discussing the benefits of debate at

Speakers this year included Greg Rehmke, director of educational programs for Economic Thinking/E Pluribus Unum Films; Mike Winther, debate coach and president of the Institute for Principle Studies; and Harris Kenny, a policy analyst with the Reason Foundation. Rehmke and Winther are both members of the Mackinac Center’s Board of Scholars.

Speakers and students discussed the amount of money the government now spends on space exploration, the government’s role in such research, the recent increase in private space travel investment and whether or not the moon and certain planets could or should be colonized. A portion of each workshop was also devoted to debate tactics, such as how to craft an argument on both sides of the issue, how to effectively cross-examine opponents and how to efficiently research the topic.

Winther commented after the workshops that, “Most rewarding to me is the year-to-year changes in philosophy that I have observed in a couple of the teachers. That is a great encouragement.”

Once again, the Mackinac Center will be offering up to four $1,000 college scholarships for students who attended the debate workshops and submit an essay about this year’s topic.