The Great Debate

“The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world. “
~Max Born

Sam chose debate as one of his elective courses this semester.  Call me crazy, but this might be one of the most useful classes of his educational career.  Pubic speaking.  Active listening.  Persuasive speech writing.  Academic research.  What’s not to love about a class that teaches all these skills?

Perhaps even more importantly, students are forced to look at both sides of the issues they are discussing.  There are valid arguments on both sides of most issues, and students are taught to disagree in a civil manner with facts rather than name calling.  They enter the competition prepared to convincingly argue for or against any given proposition, regardless of their personal opinions.

Yesterday was our district’s first debate tournament of the year, sponsored by the UAA Seawolf debate program.  Eight schools and 34 teams participated, and the event was judged by UAA and high school debate teams.  Thanks to all of these students who are clearly devoted to growing their next crop of debaters!

The middle schoolers were given these 3 topics back in September, and they have been preparing ever since:

  • All prohibitions on the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports should be removed.
  • The United States should abolish the electoral college.
  • No public funding should go to support manned space exploration missions

Sam’s teacher is a master coach and inspired many teams from her class to enter the competition. His teammates are rock stars.  They brought so much experience, wisdom, confidence, and personality to his team.  Watching the growth in Sam’s speeches throughout the tournament was incredible.  His content was always strong, but each speech became a bit more animated, engaging, emphatic, and theatrical.

And the best part?  Sam’s team battled through six debates in a single day and ended up winning the competition!  They brought home the trophy!  I watched the final round with tears of pride in my eyes!

Here are some highlights:

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Students have 10 minutes to prepare their speeches after they are assigned a topic.

 

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Waiting for results is agony!

Moving on to semifinals… pure joy!

 

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A coin flip determined which position the teams would take in the final debate.

Here is Sam’s speech in the final round – in front of a crowd of over 100 people!

From agony to euphoria!

We couldn’t be more proud!  Congratulations to all the students who accepted this challenge, and thanks to the educators who made it possible!  I have a feeling this is the start of something special for these kids!

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