Learning to disagree with class
When you point out a weakness in the other teams argument, do it in a courteous way. Otherwise, you will seem like a jerk and lose points, said Andrew Gates. Plenty of grownups have lived decades without learning that lesson, but Gates, an eighth-grader at Lake Oswego Junior High, understands it already. It is one of many things he and 12 team members have learned since they formed the Lake Oswego Middle School debate team in January.
Students have learned how to discuss complex policy issues with nuance and skill. (Last) Friday at the Wayne Morse Invitational, a statewide tournament in Eugene, they debated whether teachers should receive merit pay and whether students should have to take drug tests to participate in extracurricular activities. Lake Oswego teams did well at their first competition; they won second place and fourth place in the seventh/eighth grade novice bracket, and second place in the fifth/sixth grade bracket.
Debaters have also had the opportunity to see an excellent, devoted teacher in action. Ms. Aletia Cochran, language arts teacher at LOJHS, serves as faculty adviser for the team. When some parents suggested forming it, she immediately offered her room and her time to help lead the effort. She has hosted club meetings on school-closed days and after work hours. She has painstakingly ensured that students understand all arguments in favor of merit pay, a controversial topic among educators. Ms. Cochran is an example of all that is right with education in our community she is a top-notch teacher and public servant devoting time and support to her students.
Finally, these young debaters are learning to compete with grace and class. In a final round of the tournament, two Lake Oswego teams faced off against each other. Debate is a confrontational activity; heckling is both allowed and encouraged. Yet after each debater finished speaking his teammates from both sides of the issue cheered him on. Over lunch the team discussed where they should all go for debate camp this summer so they can be even stronger next year.
Not everything fits together well in our education system. Not everyone works together well in our community. But sometimes things click. This is one of those times. Congratulations to the students and teachers and parent volunteers who have helped launch the Lake Oswego Middle School debate team. Its a great addition to our community.
Ann Lininger, Lake Oswego, a former Clackamas County commissioner, is the parent of two debaters at Lake Oswego Junior High School and helps coach the debate team. Jane Griffiths, Lake Oswego, is the parent of a debater, teaches at the Lake Oswego Junior High and helped launch the team.
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