Students Learn the Art of Lively, Logical Debate (Savannah, Ga.)

Date: April 19, 2013

Ed DeVita, an English teacher at Savannah Ombudsman West, established a debate team that is sharpening students’ critical thinking and persuasive communication skills – and quickly gaining popularity among students who enjoy learning the art of debate.

“I always loved to debate issues with my friends and family, so it’s really exciting to have an opportunity to use my skills in the classroom,” said student Imani Ferguson.

“The debate team has given me something to look forward to every day and I am shocked by the undiscovered talent in our classroom. There are students who start to debate and surprise us all because they are so good.”

DeVita believed the competitive format of debate would appeal to students. In every class, three or four students are permanent team members and others rotate in and out to give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate. DeVita says students eagerly line up to be a part of the team, creating a healthy competition among classmates.

There are two teams, the affirmative team vs. the negative team, and each team is comprised of four students. The topic is given after the teams are chosen and the affirmative and negative positions are decided.

“Once the topic is given, students have 15 minutes of prep time with their teammates to line up their respective strategies based on logical ideas,” said DeVita.

“There are no books, newspapers or Internet allowed. It is only what they know and what they can decipher and present. That aspect alone really gets them pumped up.” Debate topics have included ending U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, free government-funded healthcare for all Americans, eliminating the space program, and computer-assisted vs. teacher-led education, to name a few.

Ferguson is enthusiastic about the debate team and the opportunity it offers him to use logic and common sense. He’d like to challenge other Ombudsman centers to start their own debate teams.

“It would be really cool if the Ombudsman Centers could start competing against each other at a regional level and then maybe a state level. I think we could even take on the more well-established public school teams. I think we are that good.”

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