John Meany had some great news to share at a meeting on campus the other day. As if he needed the growth in the debate outreach programming he supervises (and he doesn’t, only because the demand is high but manpower is spread thin), his efforts have an even bigger audience now.
The argumentation and refutation materials and techniques he developed as director of The Claremont Colleges Debate Union, will now be used by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its Teaching Tolerance program. The Teaching Tolerance Program––as its name implies–– develops educational anti-bias materials used nationally (including multimedia teaching kits, a magazine, and Academy Award-winning documentaries) to promote equality and justice.
They are the most recent to integrate Meany’s debate materials and techniques, which also are being used in college and secondary school debate textbooks as well as for Debate Union intercollegiate debate, and professional communication workshops.
The Teaching Tolerance curriculum includes “Civil Discourse in the Classroom,”––materials for integrating argumentation skills into middle school reading, language arts, and social studies courses:
Using these lessons, students will be able to turn their unsubstantiated opinions into reasoned arguments. They also will learn how to effectively challenge an opposing argument—not with fists and fury, but rather with a step-by-step process for refutation, their website notes.
Laying the groundwork for productive, reasoned and lively discussions on a variety of topics, the tools also give students “training wheels” for learning how to have reasoned arguments outside the classroom.
Their website also encourages teachers to examine the online resources for the Middle School Public Debate Program, the 5C Debate Union’s largest and fastest-growing educational outreach project, as well as the Middle School Public Debate Program’s textbook, Speak Out! Debate and Public Speaking in the Middle Grades (2005), co-written by Meany and Kate Shuster.
So in the words of expert John Meany, here is a quick explainer of at least some of what the young students will learn:
“All Debate Union programming, the foundation for argument development is taught using A-R-E-S-R, Assertion-Reasoning-Evidence-Significance-Result, often abbreviated for integration in the classroom as A-R-E, Assertion-Reasoning-Evidence. Middle school students are able to construct and defend powerful argument positions using this method. A primary method for teaching refutation is the Four-Step Method; the technique identifies the core of an opponent’s position, presumes disagreement, and integrates a reply using A-R-E tactics. This is the description of the importance of teaching argumentation as part of civil discourse in the classroom. This section of the Teaching Tolerance website highlights the A-R-E and Four-Step techniques.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Program, children experiment with having and voicing opinions. These are usually opinions they have overheard at home or in their communities. “Public schools have the potential to expose children to multiple and diverse perspectives on a variety of issues, enriching their social and personal lives while planting the seeds for an enlivened democratic society.”
Although most states include speaking and listening skills as part of mandated content standards, speaking and listening skills, however, are difficult to test, especially in a standardized and statewide manner. “As a consequence, these essential skills are too often ignored at great cost to students and society.”
The Claremont Colleges Debate Union’s Public Debate Program (a secondary school outreach program sponsoring class and competition public speaking and debate training and events, including the Middle School Public Debate Program, High School Public Debate program, and U.S.-World Schools Debate Program) reaches many tens of thousands of students in the United States, and more than a dozen other countries each year. More than 90 MSPDP teams will be on CMC’s campus Saturday, April 20, 2013 for the 11th Annual Middle School Debate Championship tournament. The middle school teams qualified for the championship in debate competitions at regional MSPDP leagues throughout the country. In the Public Debate Program, members of the Debate Union train teachers, administer leagues, manage tournaments, and judge at national and international debate competitions.