60 Minutes Broadcast to Feature Baltimore Urban Debate League on Sunday, June 8

BALTIMORE—60 Minutes, the CBS News magazine that airs in Baltimore on WJZ-TV (Channel 13) at 7 p.m., will air a segment this Sunday featuring the work of the Baltimore Urban Debate league, a program that is lifting the skills and prospects of hundreds of Baltimore City high school students.

The Open Society Institute-Baltimore launched The Baltimore Urban Debate League in 1999 in nine city public schools as an academic and after-school program. Today, more than 250 students from 17 Baltimore City High Schools participate in the league, according to BUDL executive director Pam Spiliadis.

60 Minutes editor Lesley Stahl has conducted extensive interviews with students from Walbrook High School and has followed them through the rigorous process of preparation and competition at local debates, said Spiliadis, who was interviewed by the show’s producers for the story.

“For students from underserved schools, participation in debate often becomes the most rewarding experience of their academic career,” said Spiliadis. “Because debate requires self-directed learning, and provides opportunities for competitive success, it motivates students who have never before felt the excitement of being responsible and rewarded for their own learning. We are thrilled that 60 Minutes is bringing national attention to this important and growing movement.”

Baltimore teachers and school and city officials are also excited by the broadcast, and will attend a special viewing party on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Towson University Student Union, Chesapeake Lounge, on the corner of Cross Campus Drive and Osler Boulevard. Free parking is available at the Union Parking Garage on corner of Osler Boulevard and Cross Campus Drive, and the media is invited to attend the viewing party and interview BUDL students, coaches, and officials.

Students from the Baltimore Urban Debate League compete against each other in monthly tournaments that take place at the 17 participating local high schools. Additionally, some BUDL students compete regionally and nationally in a formal debate circuit and overseas as part of the International Debate Education Association. Baltimore students have competed with great success in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in High Tatras, Slovakia.

Diana Morris, director of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, noted that Baltimore is a flagship member of national movement of urban debate leagues, all seeded with funds from George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Fourteen leagues are now members of the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues, located in Chicago.

“BUDL gives Baltimore students a wonderful opportunity to realize first-hand the value of research, critical thinking, and advocacy,” said Morris. “As the 60 Minutes piece will show, debate offers a perfect vehicle for channeling the energy, creativity, and intellect of our young people.”

The Open Society Institute-Baltimore launched The Baltimore Urban Debate League through a partnership with The Baltimore City Public School System, Towson University, The Fund for Educational Excellence and the Barkley Forum at Emory University.