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Young debaters take on Internet dilemmas

Craig Elementary students participate in parent-run club

Olga Plotnikov talks to students on the red team during a break at the Craig Elementary student debate. Poltnikov, the parent of a third grader, spearheaded the debate club and volunteers to run it.

Olga Plotnikov talks to students on the red team during a break at the Craig Elementary student debate. Poltnikov, the parent of a third grader, spearheaded the debate club and volunteers to run it. Photo by John Purcell.

— Kids may sometimes say the darndest things, but they also can provide an interesting perspective to modern-day problems and struggles.

The Craig Elementary School Debate Club held its third debate of the year on Thursday, Dec. 1, when it addressed whether the Internet brings more harm than good. The school’s club was initiated and is overseen by Olga Plotnikov, a parent volunteer.

It meets every other Thursday and has about 12 students actively participating. At the end of a debate, the children are paired off into three teams, with one supporting, one opposing and another developing questions during the debate to ask the two teams.

Plotnikov said her son, third-grader Dennis, spurred her to look into starting the club to offer a unique opportunity for elementary students.

“I have a debater at home,” said Plotnikov. “He inspired me, because at school they don’t have time or resources … to debate and discuss things.”

She said critical thinking among children is on a downhill trend compared to the past, so the club provides an outlet for such engagement. The club is in its second year.

“It is probably not a real debate like in high school, but they learn how to stand up and speak loudly and make their own point,” she said.

While the debate might not be exactly like a high school one, it is structured.

The debate pitted the green team, assigned with arguing the Internet is more harmful than good, against the red team, which provided the opposing viewpoint. Time was allowed to make the points to support arguments and then the opposing team was offered a chance for rebuttal. The yellow team then provided the question-and-answer portion, asking for further explanation or for elaboration on statements made by both teams.

Students might not always get their first choice on what team to be on during the debate, but teams rotate, allowing everyone to get a turn at each angle.

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