Expanding Argumentation with the RMC Tribal College Debate Program

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photo by Karen Wray

photo by Karen Wray

By: Tessa Fraser –

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This is exactly what the Rocky Mountain College’s debate team is doing by collaboratively teaching debate workshops at tribal colleges around Montana and Wyoming.

The Tribal College Debate Program was started in the spring of 2013. The program is funded by a $34,000 grant from the Open Society Institute through International Debate Education Association (IDEA), an organization that has been in existence for over 20 years and works with young people from all over the world in the realm of debate. The grant has made
it so that Rocky’s debate team has been able to teach more than 10 different workshops at several different colleges, including Little Big Horn College located in Crow Agency and Chief Dull Knife College located on Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

Native American Reservations in Montana are a hub for political discussion and discourse. The debate workshops like the TCD program provide a chance for the people at the colleges to discuss and explore both sides of complicated issues to gain a better understanding of them and the effect they have on the community.

The workshops not only help the students at the tribal colleges, but they also help the students on the debate team. When RMC students go and teach debate argumentation under the British Parliamentary style, it not only helps them hone and practice the skills they need to be successful at competitions, but it also helps them to understand what they are doing on a higher level. When asked about her experiences teaching at the tribal colleges, sophomore Annastacia Anderson said, “Teaching at the tribal colleges has been an incredible experience for me. It has not only been eye opening about Native American issues, but also a great learning experience for debate. Dissecting argumentation and teaching it to someone else has increased my own understanding of argumentation and how to relate to my peers.”

Programs like the Tribal College Debate Program are integral. After being asked about why he thought the program was important, sophomore David Fejeran said, “Communication and argumentation skills are essential for anyone who wants to excel in our business-oriented world. The more opportunities that the Rocky Mountain College Debate Team has to share these skills, the more everyone benefits.” This program is the first of its kind in Montana and in the country. It provides a great opportunity to create a network of debate and civil engagement between colleges that currently do not have the resources to do this on their own. The creation of this network is important because of how spaced out the higher education opportunities are. When that amount of physical distance exists, it makes collaboration between the schools incredibly hard. The Tribal College Debate Program makes this needed collaboration possible.


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