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Carter-Lawrence Elementary Magnet School hosts debate consortium

Carter-Lawrence Elementary Students Some of Metro Schools elementary schools are getting in on the fun of being contrarian, participating in debate team events typically reserved for middle schools and high schools.

Debate teams offer students the opportunity to develop critical thinking, teamwork, research and communication skills with activities that provide life skills conducive to a young person's success, according to the National Speech and Debate Association.

Carter-Lawrence Elementary Magnet School recently hosted the first Debate Consortium event of the 2015-2016 season, joining the "Free Speech: The Movement" Debate Consortium this year with support from the school's new leadership of Principal Inta Sanford and Debate Coordinator Cara Wade.

Carter Lawrence student debate team joined the Debate Consortium this year.

Smith Springs Elementary Principal Lance Forman said he was blown away with students' poise and preparation for the recent debate.

"All the students from all the representative schools did such an excellent job engaging in a civilized debate on a real-world, engaging topic. The students were presented with the following resolution: “Children under the age of 18 should be allowed access to social media”. It was very evident that the school staffs from each school had spent a lot of time working with their students to prepare them for how to respond to questions and 'think on their feet' to respond to the other team’s position," Forman said. "It was truly a great experience to see the students working so hard to defend their position and find ways to strengthen their arguments throughout the timed debate. All schools represented did an outstanding job, and we enjoyed spending time at the school of our debate partner, Carter-Lawrence Elementary."

Forman believes the critical thinking and analytical skills MNPS debaters are learning will benefit them in class during the school day.

"The students are required to think critically and take notes [during debates] while the other team is presenting their position. I was recently visiting a 4th grade classroom during their reading block and noticed one of our debaters writing notes in the margin of her text during an independent activity," Forman said. "I walked over to her desk and saw that she was responding to the text by writing questions or restating what she had read. These are the types of skills she has already learned while on the debate team, and she is carrying the skill over to her reading class!"

The Debate Consortium was created by Adrienne Neal and Kenisha Hawthorne in 2011 with participation of two schools. Supported by M.L. Sandoz, Director of Forensics at Vanderbilt University, the consortium has since grown across Nashville to 11 elementary and four middle schools, according to the consortium's website.

"We're finding that 4th graders are really good at debating," Neal said.

"Because it is something they are learning how to do, we always do the exact same topic at the first two debates, because it gives them the opportunity to improve their research, argument and practice time," Neal said, adding that repeating debate topics gives students more confidence the next time they get up in front of a crowd and make arguments.

The consortium will debate the following topics for the rest of the school year:

  • Dec. 5 at Smith Springs Elementary School. Topic: *That children under the age of 18 should be allowed to have access to social networking sites.
  • Jan. 23 at J.E. Moss Elementary School. Topic: *That public universities should be free to attend.
  • April 8 or 9, at Vanderbilt University.  Topic: *That students should be required to learn cursive handwriting.

All debates are free and events are open to the public.

For more information, contact contact Adrienne Neal or Cara Wade through the debate consortium's website: