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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.

— In between the debates, the students research the issue and prepare to express their positions on the topic.

Craig Elementary School Principal William Anders said the club provides an opportunity for younger students that is usually reserved for higher grades.

“We know that kids have to learn how to express an opinion, learn how to research. Many children are doing this at a younger age now,” Anders said. “This is a nice forum for them to be able to express that research and that opinion.”

He added it helps the students gain confidence in talking in front of their peers, which is an important life skill and can be difficult even for many adults.

Students take a stance

The two teams’ arguments largely focused on the tradeoff between the Internet’s access to information and its propensity for distraction and even harmful behavior.

Aditya, a fifth-grader, said students wouldn’t access inappropriate images and content if they’re looking up information for homework. He said the keywords used when searching online would usually be used for something educational.

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Craig Elementary School Principal William Anders listens to students on the yellow team preparing to ask questions to members of two debating teams.

“Education and being inappropriate are like oil and water. They do not mix very well,” Aditya said.

Kamryn, also a fifth-grader, said sometimes other things can be dangerous, such as roads and pens, but it doesn’t mean people need to get rid of them.

“That wouldn’t be very reasonable,” Kamryn. “You could stab somebody with a pen, but only if you were misusing it.”

Dennis Plotnikov added the Internet could help complete assignments faster, and the higher grade a student is in the more homework they most likely receive. He said his older sister “has like millions of homework.”

“If you try to use a dictionary all the time, you have to go to that letter and search in alphabetical order and that takes 20 minutes, not the fast kind of 20 minutes,” Dennis said. “On the Internet … sometimes you can just type in words that are misspelled and it says, ‘Do you mean this?’”

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