Thursday, March 26, 2015

Debate Class

This class sounds awesome!  This is an abridged version of their talented teacher's summary of this week's class:

The kids were assigned to debate "Being a superhero is awesome"and split into two teams, with two taking the affirmative and two doing the negative side. The affirmative side goes first, and both teams got about five minutes to prepare their opening three minute speeches where they present their two to four contentions (arguments affirming or negating the claim). They knew their own arguments so they used the prep time to organize their contentions and think about what the opposite team's strategy might be (nice!).

Debate: the teams took a little time in the beginning to think about definitions. What constitutes a superhero? Batman and IronMan weren't included in that definition, because they are basically humans with technology enhancements.

The we started the opening speeches. One contended that helping people, being able to fly/having superhero skills is cool, as is meeting important and famous people (like the President). K then started with a short rebuttal of some of those points and then presented their negative case: you have to lie to your family, having such power can corrupt you, and innocent people die when superheroes take the law into their own hands. The other team rebutted some of K's points and then gave one more contention and then it was K's partner's turn to rebut some of the other team's points and finish up the negative case.

After the three minute speeches by all team members comes the cross-examination period. This is more free-form, and can take up the bulk of the debate round in tournaments. Teams ask each other questions, trying to find weaknesses in each other's contentions. You must answer or rebut every single one of the other team's contentions in some way, or they win that point. They talked a little bit about quality of evidence, the difference between a science journal article and a newspaper article, and so on.

In the end, the kids enjoyed doing a debate, and learned the importance of research and thinking about arguments well before the actual debate round. Being prepared is important, as is thinking strategically about what your opponent might bring to the table so you can prepare rebuttals.  Some photos of the prep work of K and her partner follow, with thanks to Jacki for the photos.


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