You might say that Aristotle persuaded Maggie Downes (LA ’13) to become a teacher.
Downes was an admittedly aimless sophomore at Tulane University when she took the service-learning course, Aristotle in New Orleans, and started coaching debate at an underperforming New Orleans middle school.
The experience so inspired Downes that she joined Teach for America after graduation.
Tulane professor Ryan McBride says that “over the course of the semester Tulane students, like Maggie, see the middle school debaters make immense progress—they help them learn to think on their feet, gain confidence in their intellectual abilities, and start to find their own voices. And that’s extremely rewarding.”
The School of Liberal Arts offers the majority of service-learning classes at Tulane, and the school partners with the Center for Public Service to ensure that the debate service-learning experience continues.
Before the Tulane Debate Society was founded in 2009, there was no formal middle school debate program in New Orleans. Now, Tulane undergraduates work directly with students from local schools, and more than a dozen middle schools compete in Tulane debate tournaments. Furthermore, the program is being used as a model across the country. “Nobody’s done anything quite like we have here,” McBride says.