Why Debate?


I am saddened once again by another terrorist attack that has claimed 84+ lives in Nice, France. I am finding it difficult to campaign for a seat on the School Board when campaigning seems so insignificant compared to the chaos and suffering that is taking place both in our country and around the world. One motivation for me to carry on is my belief that education can play a role in finding solutions for the current challenges facing our world. One initiative that I believe would be a step in the right direction is to require all high school students to take Speech and Debate in the 9th grade. Students wouldn't necessarily have to give speeches--they could opt out and write their arguments. Not only will taking a Debate class help all students throughout our District develop the important academic skills of research, critical thinking, organizing their thoughts, confidence, articulation, listening, thinking on their feet, becoming knowledgable of current events, and a new appreciation and understanding of the views of others, but Debate will also offer students the opportunity to learn how to discuss their differences in a civil manner.

I believe all students would love to be a part of a class like Debate...people love to argue...one can see this reality on Facebook and in online news article comments. What is desperately needed, though, is to teach people to argue in a civil manner, and to appreciate the views of others just as they would want their own views to be appreciated. Something I've always believed is that..."If you win an argument and lose a friend, you really haven't won anything." I think Martin Luther King Jr. held a similar view of the ultimate goal...he said, "Our aim must never be to defeat or shame the white man. Our aim must be to win his friendship and understanding." When we elevate the value of deep thinking via civil debate and discussion, students will not only grow intellectually, but they will also develop the academic skills that will pay dividends in all of their other classes. It is common for Debate students to have other teachers ask them, "You're in Debate, aren't you? I can tell by the way you organize your thoughts." Debate not only has the ability to create a more civil, empathetic society, but it also offers a viable mechanism for lifting at-risk, academically deficient students up out of a state of hopelessness. Hope, more than anything else, can work wonders in a struggling student's life.

One last thing that I love more than anything else about Debate is the fact that Debate class occasionally requires an individual to argue a point of view that they may not believe in. It is in those moments and at those times, when a student must truly seek to deeply understand the views of another--deep enough that they can successfully argue the strong points of an opposing view--those who can do so are considered great Debate students. I believe this type of debate can prove to be especially beneficial when individuals have religious differences.

Note to Reader: Out of respect for my many friends who may not like any spiritual spice on their "food for thought", this gets a little spiritually spicy...you may want to skip this last paragraph if spiritual spice gives you intellectual indigestion.

Along the lines mentioned above about arguing a point of view you do not share, the debate that I would love to see would be a debate between a Christian and an Atheist, with them both assigned to argue the other person's point of view. I think I could argue the point of view of the Atheist, now I just need to find an Atheist that would argue the Christian perspective on life. This proposition may seem like an odd endeavor for a Christian to invite, but I don't think successfully debating such a perspective is impossible or out of the question. Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Thomas, Mary the mother of Jesus, and all of the early Christians who died cruel deaths for their faith...they were all certainly challenged to hold onto faith despite a lack of evidence or answers to their prayers--many of them dying in a state of apparent defeat. Even Jesus cried out before he died, "Father, why have you forsake me?" I believe Christians may understand some of the harshest of questions that Atheists encounter...and their understanding and empathy may arise, more times than not, as a result of their firsthand knowledge of the struggles and sufferings that others around them may encounter. Ok...enough of this rabbit trail...

In conclusion, a healthy society is one where individuals seek to understand issues and others, to act with compassion and empathy, and then, ultimately, desire to win friendships more than arguments. That's the kind of School District I want to help build...that's the kind of Society I want to help establish, live in, and leave as a legacy to our children. I see Debate as a positive step in the pursuit of these goals.


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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, Non-Partisan, for Orange County School Board Chair

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