Three times a year, Hun Middle School students participate in an all-school debate tournament. The debate program takes place during “MUD Week” -- the break between athletic seasons. From this community event, students with an affinity for debate emerge, and ultimately field the School’s competitive debate team. The decision to engage all students in the exercise is an unusual one rooted in a strong pedagogical philosophy.
Debate advisors Dr. Talboy and Mr. Kleber both believe wholeheartedly that understanding the art of debate creates a foundation that consists of core skills that assist in students’ development.
“Through these debates, students are able to learn how to address real-world issues through public speaking, critical thinking, reasoning, and research practice,” said Mr. Kleber. “As students continue to participate in MUD Week, they begin to grow in all aspects including communication, collaboration, leadership, essay writing, and public speaking. The debates always offer a healthy amount of pressure to perform with the balance of fun in a team environment.”
All school debate topics are usually fictional, but mirror contemporary real-world topics. This approach adds humor and allows students to explore real issues without the political charge that hot topics can sometimes carry.
The first debate topic of the 2021 school year was “Open Buckville”; Dr. Talboy and Mr. Kleber invented a scenario where the city of Buckville was in lockdown, and the mayor, Sanah S. ’27, recently decided to lift the lockdown. The goal of the affirmative team was to prove why opening Buckville was the right decision while the negative team argued that Buckville should stay in a lockdown.
Dr. Talboy notes that this debate theme provides an opportunity for students to discuss what they have recently experienced with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We used the concept of whether or not to keep Buckville open to talk about greater timely and relevant issues that students are able to research and debate in a safe environment.”
On the first day of debate week, the mayor of Buckville, Sanah, gave opening remarks to the students about the debate topic. Students then spent time brainstorming and building six assertions, three for the affirmative side and three for the negative side.
Day two was dedicated to mastering proper format and etiquette while also researching and practicing for the final debate. Students spent their time finalizing scripts, adding evidence, rehearsing and timing one another in preparation for the final debate. Dr. Talboy notes that the key to a strong argument is to find and add real-world connections.
Day three is final debate day. Once each debate is completed, students are graded on a variety of things including content, style, and strategy, and a winner is named for each advisory group.
Dr. Talboy notes that debate week brings out the best in Middle School students, and their enthusiasm always drives successful debates.