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Debates continue in Metro Schools

On Oct. 22, students from various Metro elementary and middle schools gathered for the first of this school year’s debate consortiums. The topic? Should students get two 20-minute recesses?

“These debates are great for helping students with learning public speaking and critical thinking skills,” said Adrienne Neal, cofounder and coordinator of the debates. “Through the debates, students learn to research their arguments and present them in an organized manner. They also learn to listen to the opposing arguments and know that it’s okay to disagree.”

Those aren’t the only benefits the debates offer. According to Neal, the debates also help students with their self-confidence, and because students must write down their arguments, students become better writers through the process.

“My wife and I both think this is an excellent opportunity for young students to get experience speaking in front of people,” said Jeremy Bussell, whose son participated in the debate on a team from Granbery Elementary. “My wife is a litigation attorney, so she understands the importance of learning this skill at an early age. For our son, who loves athletics, this is also an opportunity for him to be in a competitive environment outside of the athletic field.”

Any Metro elementary or middle school that wants to assemble a team can compete in the debate. This year, there will be four elementary school debates (two each semester) and two middle school debates (one each semester).

The debates started when Adrienne Neal and one of her colleagues were looking for a way to make social studies more interesting for their students. In the debate that took place in October, there were 11 elementary schools and four middle schools that participated. (That’s up from two elementary schools and no middle schools in 2011, the first year of the debates.)

Past debate topics have included:

  • Should students have school uniforms?
  • Should technology replace regular textbooks?
  • Should students have set bedtimes?
  • Should school be year-round?

"We like to give them topics they can research and think critically about when given an abundance of information," said Neal. "We've found that students are very passionate. It's wonderful to watch them grow."

The next debate will take place on Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.