THOSE WHO CAN, DEBATE. OR ‘WHY WE SHOULD BE TEACHING DEBATING’.
It has been observed that those who can do, those who can’t teach. And while we might take exception to such a statement, it contains a grain of truth: it’s the doing that’s the key.
For writing or comprehension, there’s no better use of their time than for students to be actually writing and reading. If we can squeeze the teaching (talk and chalk) to a reasonable minimum, then we free students up to read more and write more. Though how we obsess about the teaching; it’s akin to the little nudges we give to the great big hulking ship to set it on the right direction.
Analogously, the only way to learn how to debate is to debate. Sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher is unlikely to be in itself conducive to making good debaters. Or to fill students with a passion for it. Or indeed, to overcome barriers relating to speaking in front of the class. There are, to be honest, a lot of reasons to just not start teaching debating. If it’s something students do (if rarely), how are they to get started? Once their started, once they’re doing it, then the teaching looks after itself.
Teaching debating is something that usually happens only at the margins, maybe at a poorly attended after-school club. It’s rarely curricular, so it’s often something that happens elsewhere (in private schools). And, as it’s hard to get the basics across – the basics of Parliamentary Style Debating involving 8 different roles. Very often we settle for a simplified form of debating, or public speaking, which can become a scripted talk on a topic of interest in front of the class (or with the teacher at lunch time).
However, when we see students debating, when we see normally quiet students who lack confidence stand up, take over the room, and let rip with eloquence, we ask ourselves: how do we get our students to this point? Shouldn’t we be at least trying? There are few things more impressive in education that seeing students take part in debating competitions, engaging with challenging topics and winning their point. This may well be the apogee of achievement in literacy; if so, why aren’t we working towards this when we teach in Years 7, 8 and 9?
As one of the barriers to teaching debating is how we get off the ground, here’s a scheme of work that can be used to do just that: how do we get kids to fill five minutes with purposeful waffle? How do we get kids to structure their talk? How do we get kids to overcome the initial barriers to being a good debater? How do we get kids standing up there and being really good at something that is, let’s be fair, really hard?
Yes, it is for everybody. Every student, by the time they leave our classroom, should be able to stand up and deliver something akin to this:
My second point is that legalising drugs will make drugs better: safer to use and more enjoyable for the user. …So… what do we mean by this? …what we mean is that drugs that are now killing kids will no longer be killing kids… that the drugs addicts take without knowing what’s in them and therefore doing harm to them will be consistently one thing and so not leading to drug overdoses and killing people. So… why is this important? …well, even the lives of drug addict are important and …under our motion… their lives would no longer be at risk – we would see the number of deaths from drug overdoses almost disappear as the quality and grade of the drug being used would be regulated – just as all legal drugs are today, as with food, drink cars etc. …drug addicts would be safer. … but drugs in general would be safer… So… why else is this good? …the world is awash with recreational drugs… they are everywhere… drug policy and enforcement has not done anything to stem the tide… so everyone is exposed to risk… especially our impressionable kids… So… who does this help? Our kids… all the research tells us that most kids will try drugs… some of those kids will take a bad drug… drugs are not quality controlled… but under the motion… they would be… so all of these kids… which is more or less all kids going forward.. will be protected from harm… So… how would this look? …this would be a world with fewer dead kids… a world in which drugs cease to be the problem they are today… and sure, the motion doesn’t get rid of all problems to do with drugs… sitting around smoking weed is probably not ideal.. but it is a lesser problem than sixteen year-old children dying on our streets… So… how does this affect the world? …are there more kids taking drugs? Possibly… but there are certainly fewer kids dying from drugs… and there are other ways to stop our kids taking drugs… but as we can see from the status quo… what we do now doesn’t work … we’re not persuading kids to not take drugs as they all more or less do anyway… if only to try them… and under the motion… this little bit of childish experimenting won’t lead to death … like it can do under the status quo… with so many kids dying every month from simply experimenting with drugs, drugs they will probably never try again… but they’re dead anyway under the status quo – but not under the motion… So… who is the stakeholder most helped? …well, all kids. All kids try drugs… despite the prohibition… despite the war on drugs… despite the law… despite the enforcement regime of the status quo… and some of those kids will necessarily die …when those drugs are unregulated and filled with all sorts of poisons and whatever we cannot imagine… So… why should you support this motion? … because we take a terrible situation in the status quo… the worst aspect of the status quo with regard to drugs… the death of kids who are merely experimenting with recreational drugs… and we get rid of it… under the motion these kids don’t die…