I like a good argument. There’s something about engaging in a passionate conversation about a topic that gets the adrenaline flowing. Now, I’m not suggesting that we run around picking fights with each other. A healthy argument includes respect for one’s opponent and a conversation that stays focused on the issues rather than on the ad hominem attacks that we see among some talking heads on TV. This kind of debate is a great tool in and out of the classroom as it allows students to see an issue from multiple perspectives and forces them to back up an opinion with reasoning and facts.

This week in the AP Government class, there were timely debates regarding the role of interest groups in our political system. Specifically, the role of the NRA was part of the debate.  Several AP Government students made solid contributions on this subject.

On Tuesday, Robin Stanton’s English 10 Honors class participated in two debates.  Students spent the previous two weeks working in teams: researching and synthesizing source material, planning strategy, and polishing their presentations.  On the morning of the debate, students arrived in professional attire.  They presented their arguments with a poise and authority that belied their years. Debate results were released later that day on PawPrint Now.

The members of the Debate Club are learning how to present persuasive arguments in support of or in opposition to current controversial topics that have been in the news frequently. It has also been discussed that you do not have to personally agree with the side of an issue that you are presenting. An effective debater should know both sides of an issue. Some of the topics that have been or will be the focus of our debates are listed below.

  1. Which presidential candidate should be the next president of the United States?
  2. Are social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or LinkedIn good for our society?
  3. Do video games contribute to youth violence?
  4. Do the movies produced in Hollywood have a bad influence on society?
  5. Should athletes be allowed to use enhancement drugs?
  6. Should medical marijuana be available in all states?

During each meeting of the club, two teams are selected to take different sides of an issue. Each team presents their arguments. Each team has an opportunity to a rebuttal of the opposing teams statements. Then each team gives a very quick summary of their  arguments. The team that gives the best presentation is declared the winner by the club adviser, Mr. Steger.

The high school student government has also been involved in a debate of substance, among themselves and with the faculty. In response to some planned changes to 10th and 11th grade minyanim, student leaders wrote a letter to administration expressing their concerns. Several meetings have been held to discuss both student and faculty concerns and a partnership is developing out of these passionate arguments about how to engage our students in tefillah. As they develop, I look forward to sharing with you our plans.

There is no argument that it is time for winter vacation. On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Upper School, I wish you an enjoyable and safe winter vacation.

Shabbat Shalom!

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