Honors College First Years Debate Knowledge, Higher Education in Plenary
The spring semester of the Honors College First-Year Course has always included a group oral presentation assignment. In the past, in both the Ethics course and in the more recent Pursuit of Knowledge course, groups of students have been given a topic related to issues being discussed in the class, and they have prepared a group presentation (usually involving Powerpoint, and often involving things like films and skits) on that topic. The groups have presented their work in front of other students in class at the Thursday evening plenary sessions.
This year, to change things up a bit and to capitalize on the Class of 2014's naturally competitive spirit, the students in HCOL 096 are doing debates. For four weeks in March and April, student teams of 4-6 debaters will be facing off against each other on Thursday evenings on issues related to the course. The four resolutions for debate, all of which take up issues we've addressed in the course readings, are:
- Be it resolved that universities should dispense with the idea of liberal education and instead provide skills-based learning.
- Be it resolved that the teaching of the sciences, technology, and engineering should include a holistic consideration of the cultural dimension of empirical research.
- Be it resolved that anti-intellectualism is a beneficial component of American democracy.
- Be it resolved that university administrators and faculty members, acting in their professional capacities (not, in other words, as private citizens) should remain impartial with regard to political issues.
Teams prepare both sides of their assigned resolution in the weeks leading up to their date with destiny, destiny being a coin toss five minutes before the debate that will determine which side they'll argue. The debates themselves, which last about an hour, consist of two constructive speeches per side, with each constructive speech followed by a cross-examination by the other team. After those four rounds of speechifying and cross-examining, the teams hunker down to prepare their rebuttals and emerge about eight minutes later with their summation arguments.
Although the students are graded by their professors on the whole process of the debate (which involves written work, debate preparation, and a final written reflection as well as the debate itself) and not particularly on who makes the most "kills," the debaters do have an opportunity to be evaluated on a "won/lost" basis by their peers, and this makes watching the debates really engaging as well. Everyone in the audience fills out a judging form immediately following the debate, assigning points to the teams for the quality of the teams' constructive cases, the effective use of evidence, the ability to respond effectively to challenges from the other team, the effectiveness of the cross-examination and rebuttals, and delivery and comportment. The teamwork is fun, the competition is fierce, and students are learning extremely valuable skills through this assignment.
Last modified April 04 2011 01:20 PM