While the Mackinac Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, we actually hosted our 26th annual round of high school debate workshops. The yearly event started in 1988, the same year we opened our doors, and is the longest running event we offer.

The workshops were created to give high school debate students an alternative view of the yearly topic, as well as tips on how to structure a winning argument and how to do effective, topical research. Each year the National Forensic League picks a topic that begins with the same phrase: “The federal government should …” Naturally it involves more spending. Our workshops provide students with a free-market perspective that looks at the issues from another angle. More than 11,000 students and debate coaches have benefitted from the program in the last 26 years.

Speakers for this year’s topic, which dealt with increased government “economic engagement” toward Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela, were Greg Rehmke, Mike Winther and Arielle John. Rehmke directs educational programs for Economic Thinking/E Pluribus Films; Winther is a debate coach and president of the Institute for Principle Studies; and John is visiting professor in the department of economics at Beloit College. Rehmke and Winther are also members of the Center’s Board of Scholars. The speakers explained how trade restrictions lead to less economic freedom for people in countries on both sides of said restrictions and how nations can work together economically even if they disagree with each other politically.

The workshops were held the first week of October in Livonia, Adrian, Saginaw and Grand Rapids, and included: Arbor Preparatory, Denby, Detroit Christian, Loyola Plymouth Christian, Southfield, Adrian, Blissfield, Stockwell Preparatory, Hudson, Lenawee Christian, Calvary Baptist, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Crossroads Academy, Forest Hills Central, Kenowa Hills, Rockford and Zion Christian.

Students attending the workshops also have the opportunity to win one of four $1,000 college scholarships by entering an essay contest in which they write an opinion-type piece on the year’s topic.