This year I have again answered student pleas for extra credit by offering the option of a debate. I initially thought we might debate the positive and negative uses of cellphones in schools, but students thought this might be beating a dead horse. So, as the best teachers do, I illustrated flexibility. I asked interested students to suggest their own possible topics. We, then, took a vote.
I followed this strategy in all five classes. And, you know what? All five classes settled on different topics. My first class decided to debate whether or not historically-based video games could prove useful in the study of history. The next class settled on the legalization of marijuana. Other classes chose other topics: year-round education, abortion and the right to bear arms.
I love debates. They allow even the quiet students a structured forum for argumentation. The classes generally seem to love debate. And, I recall my fondest memories of A.P. U.S. History. When no one else would volunteer in September, I agreed to defend the British in the American Revolution. From there, I went on to participate in every debate for the remainder of the year.
I learned to see things through different eyes, to anticipate the ideas of the other side and fire away, if necessary. I believe it is only through open discussion, open ears and an appreciation of opposing viewpoints that we can better understand our own values, their strengths as well as their weaknesses.