All-School Debate Takes a Fantastical Turn in Hun Middle School
All-School Speech and Debate, a signature program of The Hun Middle School, took an interesting turn this year. Instead of students simply debating current events, they did so through the lens of a fictional alien world.
Middle School Debate takes place for all students two or three times a year – usually between sports seasons. Program leaders use the last period of the day to help students learn how to perfect an argument and their presentation skills. Students with a particular interest can compete year-round on Hun’s competitive debate team.
Faculty supervisors Tom Talboy and Evan Kleber, who also coach the School’s competitive team, decided to take a new approach. They created a “fantastical” situation, in which the fictional planet “Cladros” was under attack and being destroyed, and its citizens, “Cladrosans,” were seeking refugee status on planet Earth.
“We wanted to do something fun and interesting,” said Dr. Talboy. “It reflected on real world issues of immigration, but was slightly removed (from reality) so students would be more comfortable expressing their opinions.”
Using a fictional “news” site created by Dr. Talboy, as well as outside sources, students did research and formed opinions on the broader resolution “Cladrosans should be allowed to come to Earth.” Other groups considered more specific questions about what would happen when they got here, such as should Cladrosans be allowed to vote, intermarry with humans, and be required to learn English? And would Cladrosans, who breathe carbon dioxide, have a positive or negative impact on climate change?
Groups researched their question, with a proponent and opponent side, and formulated an argument. Each group chose a representative to present their position at an all-school debate on November 1st. Student audience members then voted on each ballot question, declaring whether or not they had been swayed by the arguments they heard.
Eighth grader Quintin Ross, who did all-school debate last year and was a presenter this year, said the alien angle “was cool because it was something different.” But he is equally excited to debate “real world” questions in the upcoming winter session.
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.