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    Inspiring Victory! NLB Jordan High Win Statewide Debate Championship

    (May 7, 2005) -- In an inspiring victory that may be the intellectual equivalent of an underrated U.S. hockey team besting overrated Soviet skaters, debaters from NLB's Jordan High School have won CA's grueling statewide Speech and Debate Championship.

    Two LB Jordan juniors -- Louis Blackwell and Richard Funches -- prevailed over 1,000 of the state's best student speakers and 64 formidable high school debate teams from across the state in the high intensity tournament held at Cal State Northridge.

    LBUSD notes in a release that Jordan was the only public high school in CA that advanced to the elimination rounds in debate; all other advancing debate teams were from private schools. "Although many of the top debaters were more experienced than Blackwell and Funches, the Jordan team won," the release says.

    An ecstatic 9th district Councilman Val Lerch broke the news at the May 3 City Council meeting. "Richard and Lewis are the 2005 state champions. They also won a [$500] scholarship, and even though we only had one team, we placed second overall [Student Congress category]...Go Panthers!"

    Teams in the final round argued the topic, "Resolved: the U.S. federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of U.N. peacekeeping operations."

    Teams had to prepare to take both the affirmative and negative sides; Jordan was assigned the negative position...and had to persuade, refute, think quickly and respond eloquently on their feet. The statewide competition was only the second year of debate experience for Blackwell and Funches.

    The team's victory was catalyzed by Jordan High speech and debate teacher Sandy Stoneman, who told in early April:

    "I did debate when I was in high school and again in college, and when I started teaching here they approached me and asked if I would like to support a new kind of debate team supported through the Urban Debate League [further below]...Forensics is important to critical thinking skills, the ability to express one's thoughts, to write, to read. When I was in High School and college, debate taught me how to analyze evidence...and taught me skills I use every day."

    In an LBUSD release, Ms. Stoneman gave much of the credit to the students and their volunteer debate coaches, Geof Brodak (CSULB grad student) and David Wiltz (Urban Debate League director), both of whom were national debate champs.

    On its website, the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues says in pertinent part:

    Urban Debate Leagues (UDLs) organize interscholastic debate as an academic competition, and promote debate as a component of the regular classroom curriculum, so that urban youth who have for so long been denied the powerful academic benefits of debate can be offered this valuable learning tool. UDLs thus aim to eliminate a particular form of educational and social inequality. UDLs have a positive academic impact on the entire urban public school systems that they are in.

    In June 2003, the nationally broadcast CBS News program 60 Minutes profiled the inspiring accomplishments of Baltimore's UDL, its student debaters and their teachers.

    Ms. Stoneman told in April 2005 that a UDL grant supported the Jordan High debate team's activities, paying for food, transportation, entry fees and other items that would otherwise be prohibitive. She added that the current grant runs out next year.

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