MIDLAND — More than 550 students from 35 Michigan high schools, both public and private, will be attending the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s 16th annual High School Debate Workshops.

The comprehensive one-day program, to be held in four cities over four days next week, will help students and their debate coaches learn debating techniques and gather information on this year’s national debate topic: That the United States federal government should establish an ocean policy substantially increasing protection of marine natural resources. The National Forensics Association chooses the topic each year to be researched and debated by more than 100,000 top students in Michigan and across the country.

The workshops will be held in Livonia on Sept. 22 at Burton Manor, in Jackson at the Commonwealth Commerce Center on Sept. 23, in Grand Rapids at Eberhard Center, Grand Valley State University on Sept. 24, and in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel on Sept. 25. Over 7,500 students and teachers have honed their forensic skills at the Center’s Debate Workshops since their inception in 1987.

The programs will feature a panel of debate experts who also carry strong credentials in other fields and can offer fresh perspectives on the national debate topic. Students and coaches will learn from:

  • Michael Alessi, director of natural resource policy for the Reason Public Policy Institute in Los Angeles. Allessi is the author of "Fishing for Solutions," a scholarly paper about how to deal with the depletion of ocean fisheries. He specializes in water policy, marine conservation and wildlife issues and is former director of the Center for Private Conservation in Washington, D.C.

  • Donald Leal, author of "Homesteading the Oceans: The Case for Property Rights in U.S. Fisheries." He has written extensively on fisheries, water, outdoor recreation, and oil and gas policy. His articles have appeared in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and he is the author of numerous published papers.

  • Gregory Rehmke, former director of the High School Speech and Debate Program at the Foundation for Economic Education in New York State. For over 10 years, Rehmke has coached debate students and produced books and study guides to help forensic students across the country.

"This year’s debate topic promises to be like no other," said Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy for the Mackinac Center. "Few areas in public policy generate as much emotional discourse as how to protect the environment. By teaching students about the power of economic incentives, and how they can be used to protect marine resources, the Center will give students a perspective they are unlikely to get elsewhere."

"For 16 years now, the Mackinac Center has been assembling top-notch teams of experts to assist Michigan high schoolers with the national debate topic," said Lawrence Reed, president of the Mackinac Center. "This year’s team will not only be able to equip our students with the information they need to acquit themselves well in debate, but will also offer them innovative perspectives on possible solutions they would be unlikely to get from any other venue."

Greetings and registration for all seminars begins at 8:30 a.m. Sessions begin promptly at 9 a.m. and close by 2:00 p.m. Cost is $5.00 per student, lunch included. For more information contact Mackinac Center Director of Fiscal Policy Michael LaFaive at (989) 631-0900, fax (989) 631-0964, or E-mail: lafaive@mackinac.org.

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