Nearly 300 high school debate students and their instructors from across Michigan attended Debate Workshops hosted in September by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute and the publisher of Michigan Education Report.

For 17 years the Mackinac Center has held the workshops to provide high school debaters with training for their debates on the National Forensic League’s annual resolution. "It’s hard to believe that this year’s senior debaters were born the year we started this program," said Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Debate Workshops are the Center’s longest-running program and have exposed more than 8,000 students to debate arguments and ideas that they may not have received from other sources. "The Mackinac Center provides students with unique arguments because few academic and mainstream sources of information detail public policy solutions that require less government intervention as opposed to more," noted Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center’s 2004 Debate Workshops program.

This year, the topic being debated was international in its scope. It reads: "Resolved: That the United States federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of United Nations peacekeeping operations."

This year’s debate topic was particularly timely. LaFaive noted that, "With Iraq, Afghanistan and the horrors of Sudan in the news daily, this year’s debate workshop was perfectly positioned to increase students’ knowledge of world affairs."

High school debate coaches throughout the state receive invitations to these programs in late August. For only $5.00 per student, teachers can bring students to any one of three sites in the state to hear lectures from top experts in their respective fields. This year’s Debate Workshops were held in Grand Rapids, Jackson and Livonia. The Mackinac Center also provided lunch to all debate participants. The Mackinac Center constructs a debate Web site where students can find more information on their topic and have access to an interactive function called, "Ask the Debate Coach." "Ask the Debate Coach" provides e-mail access to experts who answer student debaters’ questions about their subject or about debating itself. The site can be found at www.mackinac.org/features/debate/2004/.

At this year’s Debate Workshops, Center experts included speakers who described peacekeeping operations in areas ranging from the Balkans and North Korea, to the whole of Africa. This year’s speakers were:

June Arunga, director of youth outreach at the Inter-Regional Economic Network in Kenya. Ms. Arunga has lectured in Europe and the United States on such topics as globalization, trade and economic freedom in Africa. She has produced a BBC documentary entitled, "The Devil’s Footpath," on the African diaspora and has been a first-hand witness to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Doug Bandow, syndicated columnist and foreign policy specialist for the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute. His work at the Institute includes a variety of studies involving United Nations policies. Bandow is also the author of a forthcoming book, "The Korea Conundrum."

Gregory Rehmke, program director at Economic Thinking/E Pluribus Unum Films, a nonprofit organization in Seattle. He has spoken and written on each year’s national high school debate topic since the 1980s.

To inquire about signing up for next year’s Debate Workshops, send an e-mail to MCPP@mackinac.org.