ETHS Speech and Debate team develops new equity initiatives


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. The school’s Speech and Debate team has begun working on initiatives this year to promote inclusivity.

Amelia Langas, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Township High School’s Speech and Debate team will begin hosting monthly racial literacy seminars for white students as one of several initiatives focused on promoting inclusivity.

Jeff Hannan, the team’s director, said in an email Tuesday that beyond the seminars, the team will also hold a Support Space for Students of Color and pilot a Spanish language debate program.

“At the end of last year, we gathered information from a bunch of different sources,” Hannan told The Daily. “All of that information taken together helped us see some of the areas where we could grow this year as a team to better support all students and make them feel comfortable and welcome on our team.”

The support space will allow team members of color to share their experiences and create new policies and processes for the team, the email said.

The racial literacy seminars will focus on reviewing and reading Robin DiAngelo’s “What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy” Hannan told The Daily. Participants will “explore” the book and brainstorm strategies for “disrupting” racism while also giving white students an opportunity to study racial identity.

Only a few cities in the country have Spanish language debate leagues, and because ETHS has a large Latinx population, the team decided the program would be a “good fit,” Hannan said.

Hannan added that Spanish speakers involved in the program are working to put on a “demonstration” debate in Spanish. They hope to have a scrimmage in May with other local high schools and eventually start a Spanish language debate league in Chicago.

These inclusive strategies were developed by the Speech and Debate team because students on the team tend to be “politically and socially engaged,” Hannan said. They often debate issues like racism and sexism in competitions, he said.

“With that student group and with the coaches that we have who are also all committed to progressive causes and activism, this was a great opportunity for us to be a model for both other activities in our school and other Speech and Debate teams,” Hannan said.

Nora Shelly contributed reporting.

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