Should the federal government do more to help poor people?

High school debaters across Michigan will take up that question in the coming year, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy will sponsor a series of workshops to help them and their coaches prepare.

The exact wording of the National Debate Topic 2009 is: "Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States."

Those supporting this position might argue that a nation as wealthy as the United States should expand its child care, health care, food, housing, mental health, education, job training and other services on behalf of those living in poverty.

Those opposed could discuss the ability, or inability, of various plans to solve the identified problem, the role of individual states, and the disadvantages of increased spending, federalism, government dependency, and even the use of the term "poverty."

In a series of four one-day workshops at varying locations in Michigan, the Mackinac Center will offer students and their coaches the opportunity to hear topical presentations on poverty, gather research material and also learn debate strategies.

Guest speakers at these workshops will include:

  • Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the Cobden Fellow in International Economics at the Texas-based Institute for Policy Innovation.

  • Michael Miller, director of programs at the Action Institute in Grand Rapids. He formerly taught and was chair of the philosophy and theology department at Ave Maria College of the Americas in Nicaragua.

  • Gregory Rehmke, director of educational programs for Economic Thinking/E Pluribus Unum Films, a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Wash. He has lectured and published widely on a variety of public policy issues.

  • Mike Winther, co-coach of a nationally-ranked California debate club and author of numerous articles on public policy issues. A frequent lecturer at debate camps, Winther has 30 years experience as a debate participant and coach.

In conjunction with the workshops, the Mackinac Center will sponsor a writing contest related to the debate topic. The center will award up to four $1,000 college scholarships as prizes. Students do not need to be active debaters to enter the writing the contest, but must attend a workshop.

The workshops will take place in Livonia on Oct. 5; Adrian, Oct. 6; Grand Rapids, Oct. 7; and Traverse City, Oct. 8. Registration is required by Sept. 21.

More information and online registration is available at www.mackinac.org/debate or by contacting Kendra Shrode at 989-631-0900.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Report.

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Lorie Shane is the managing editor of the Michigan Education Report, the Mackinac Center’s education policy journal. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that Michigan Education Report is properly cited.