Odds are, if a DISD student wishes to learn about debate, they will attend the DISD Learning Debate, a workshop designed to teach middle school students the basics of the intellectual sport. This is the second year for the workshop, and it is flourishing, with eleven schools and around 200 kids participating.
Dr. McFarland, who is a member of a charitable non-profit organization called The Dallas Urban Debate Alliance where the main goal is to bring debate into middle schools, said that, “The workshop was designed to give the middle school kids their first taste of debate,” also adding that the workshop “is kinda designed to get the kids learning how to speak and talk in front of people.” She said also that another goal was to get the middle school kids to “get to know each other, so that when they saw each other from different middle schools at tournaments during the actual season, then they would know each other.”
The workshop itself was held on a Saturday, running from about 9AM to 3PM. In small groups in the morning, the students would do reading activities, cross-examination exercises, and activities to build social bonds, as mentioned above. Next, the students watched demonstration debates done by students who are part of the program. After this, the students would then break up and do practice debates. With so many students, there were “forty seven practice debates going on at one time,” said Dr. McFarland.
“It was so great that we had so many Jesuit volunteers that came out,” McFarland said, “because we doubled in size. I knew that we would grow but I figured we’d grow to about 100-120 and then we had about 200 kids, so Jesuit students really stepped up.” It wasn’t only debate students volunteering from Jesuit, however. In all, there were students from the Multicultural Society, the Commit Program, and the Ignatian Scholars Program.
The DISD Learning Debate Workshop is a great way to give kids interested in debate an opportunity to learn more about it, as well as practice it and meet kids from other schools who participate in debate. The workshop is a great opportunity for DISD kids and hopefully will continue. Thanks to Dr. McFarland and the Jesuit volunteers for helping to make it happen.