In October, Joseph Leeson-Schatz, director of speech and debate at BU, got on a plane to the Dominican Republic to run his second debate workshop at the Ashton School, bringing his expertise to train students in grades six to 12 in the art of debate and rhetoric.
This year marks the second that Leeson-Schatz has run the workshop at the school, which is a selective academy located in Santo Domingo that offers training for activities such as Model United Nations and junior achievements, in addition to a debate club. The workshop focused on teaching students debate techniques, skills and philosophy.
“I worked with students grades six through 12 on how to form arguments, researching evidence and learning the basics of utilitarianism for impact comparison,” Leeson-Schatz said. “On top of lectures, we did a series of speaking and debate drills.”
Leeson-Schatz said the program was designed to prepare Ashton School students for local and international competitions.
“The goal of the program was to teach debate, better prepare Ashton for the competitions they already have in the Dominican Republic as well as train them in the topic they’ll be debating when they travel to the United States to compete later in the year,” Schatz said.
However, the program does not just benefit children at the Ashton School. Leeson-Schatz said he sees it as a way to spread word of BU’s debate team and the University itself.
“[This program] is also an opportunity to reach out and recruit potential debaters to Binghamton University and promote our school’s international reputation,” he said
Two other people were involved in organizing and coordinating this program, both of whom reside in the Dominican Republic. One is Leyti De Los Santos, administrator of the leadership program at the Ashton School.
“[Los Santos’] daughter also goes to Binghamton University and is on the debate team, which is how I made the initial connection,” Leeson-Schatz said. “Terisha Lluberes is another mother who was actively involved in helping me come to run the workshop. She had two kids who participated in [it].”
Although this is only this program’s second year, Leeson-Schatz intends to make it an annual trip.
“We are planning on it to continue to be an annual event and expand it in the future to include more people from Binghamton University attending,” he said.
Leeson-Schatz said he also plans to expand the scope of the program, starting workshops with instructors in the Dominican Republic to use the skills and tools of debate to provide a better educational experience. He is modeling the program after a curriculum he will soon be implementing at BU.
“That training will be based upon the Debate Across the Curriculum workshop I will be running for the Center for Learning and Teaching at Binghamton [University] later this semester,” Leeson-Schatz said.
He noted his experience creating the program has been extremely rewarding, something he hopes will continue.
“In addition to seeing the joy of new students learning how to debate and loving the activity, I got the chance to experience a baseball game in the Dominican Republic, partake in a coral reef restoration training and forge friendships that will last long beyond this individual workshop,” Leeson-Schatz said. “Universally, all the students enjoyed the workshop and were immediately asking when it could be run again.”