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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Debate

No, I'm not going to Blog about the Republican presidential debates. There are enough pundits critiquing every word uttered and interpreting every meaning possible. Instead, I'm writing about a seed that has been planted in Green Island that has started to sprout and produce.

I stopped by and visited the Debate Club during one of their recent meetings after school. I have been very interested in this group because it has emerged from an initiative generated this year by a couple of our high school learners who sought to expand possibilities at Heatly. Additionally, it exists largely on the generosity of an extraordinary teacher who has volunteered her time to supervise the club and freely provide expertise to participants.

Despite concerns I had that the teacher and learners who started the group might struggle to attract members in a small school where athletics traditionally appeals to and occupies a high percentage of the body of learners, the Debate Club has survived and actually grown. This fact has been rewarding to me as I continue to invest energy and effort in nurturing an organizational culture oriented toward our goal of being a small school with BIG ideas. Expanding programs and opportunities at a time when many schools are retreating from support to extracurriculars is reaffirming. This has been particularly true when one considers that Debate Club are generally not found at an overwhelming number of  high schools. In addition, another noteworthy measure of the group's success is the increasing number of females participating in an event traditionally and disproportionately represented by males.

On the day of my surprise visit, the club members were about to begin a "flash debate" in which they had only a mere five minutes to prepare their position on an issue and ready themselves to defend their stance with logic and resolve. The performance of competitors was impressive. I couldn't help but notice that they were routinely exercising skills that would serve them well in the future as adults in virtually any endeavor they might pursue. There was evidence of deductive and inductive reasoning, deft deflections of intellectual thrusts with cognitive counter-attacks, effectively communicated gestures that augmented verbal repartee, well articulated opinions supported by research and references, and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. This last point differs sharply from the performances of presidential candidates currently involved in far more publicized debates than those at 171 Hudson Avenue in Green Island.

The Debate Club is exactly the type of enterprising activity we need to develop and sustain if Heatly expects to grow and stretch as a learning community. It's my responsibility now to provide the support and the conditions to not only keep the Debate Club operating, but to also have it spawn other clubs designed to involve learners who are not otherwise presently engaged with a school extracurricular program.

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