MASSENA — A Massena Central School Board of Education member says that at a time when many opinions turn into disagreements, it might be worthwhile to explore a Debate Club or similar activity for students.
“I was wondering if there could be something like a virtual Debate Club that could meet on Zoom Meets and be given topics, have an adviser, maybe have people take pros and cons of each side, and then under kind of strict rules and guidelines,” Patricia Murphy told board members. “You can’t do certain things. You can only present your facts and maybe it can be scored.”
She said it could possibly be scored by the truthfulness of information presented and the citing of places where the student found the information.
“It might engage students and spark some good, healthy debate because we know that the problem right now that most people are having is they can only have one opinion and for some reason they’re having aggression when someone disagrees with their opinion,” Ms. Murphy said. “… Maybe it’s time for us to start helping kids to not only form their own opinions, but to be tolerant of opinions that are different from their own.”
She recalled that the district once had a Debate Club, which later turned into Mock Trial.
“Then there were problems where we couldn’t get people to staff it and keep that going. So, I thought if they met virtually, what would keep anybody from not being able to participate, except there would have to be guidelines and things like that,” she said.
Ms. Murphy said her suggestion was prompted by one made by board member Kevin Perretta at a previous meeting. He had wondered if there was any way to promote academic competition from district to district, “to celebrate and push academic achievement.”
“Schools compete in sports by sections or grading of the size of the school,” Mr. Perretta said. “But, we’re an academic institution, not a sports institution, and I don’t know if anyone has ever come up with a way to educationally compete, celebrate or sort of uplift from within a school to maybe give some sort of a carrot out there for maybe a smart kid to push a kid that isn’t smart.”
He said they might only look at graduation or dropout rates to increase awareness of academic achievements when there could be more.
“I think the more awareness we can create around the whole idea can only benefit all those students in that place,” he said.
Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said he wasn’t aware of academic competitions between schools with the exception of Whiz Quiz.
“I would love to see speech and debate be very strong in schools again. Mock Trial used to be an incredible program,” Mr. Brady said. “Some of these have gone by the wayside over time as people change.”
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