High School EU Debate and Symposium
Developed in 2019, this program runs a large two-day debate event on Virginia Tech’s campus each spring for secondary school students in the New River Valley/Roanoke Valley region around Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg, south-western Virginia. Since its start, the event has grown significantly, from involving only 70 high school students from one large school in its first year to five schools and 130 students in 2023. Teachers meet in the autumn of each academic year, and, led by CEUTTSS staff, coordinate the spring event held the following March.
In 2024 we plan to pilot an expansion of the program to south-eastern Virginia and the large urban area around Virginia Beach/Norfolk, where an additional CEUTTSS affiliated educator is helping CEUTTSS staff coordinate a spring conference for regional schools in that area of Virginia. In 2025 we plan to expand that event, as well as expand further to the Richmond/central capital area of Virginia. The medium term expansion goal after 2025 is to hold a fourth regional conference at Virginia Tech’s campus in northern Virginia, and a culminating debate event where the leading schools from all four regions would compete in a final EU Council debate.
Students in small groups of three or four represent an EU member-state, and are given three weeks to research and prepare a position statement on the two or three issues that will be negotiated and voted on at the EU Council Debate. Each group selects a Head of State who presents the two-minute position statement at the conference before groups begin negotiations and try to achieve consensus on the issues before voting. Position statements are also put on a controlled access social media site, Slack, so that informal negotiations can continue in the evening in-between the two days of the debate.
The goals of the Secondary School EU Council Debate program is to provide students with the opportunity to actively engage with current pressing issues facing the EU, and to allow them to develop realistic consensus-driven solutions with their peers. In doing so students gain a valuable insight into not only continent-wide issues, but of the nuances of their specific EU Member-States positions, and of the procedures of the EU Council as well as EU values as a whole.