Editor’s note: We asked the Program Director of this new Debate Camp in Providence to give us an idea of what his camp is like and why formal debate is important for kids to learn. Debate Camp takes place 8:30-4:40 pm, July 16-20, at the Wheeler School. See their ad in our 2018 Camp & Summer Program KidoGuide.
By Nick Szymanis
For many parents, what comes out of the mouths of teens and pre-teens may seem like constant debating or, even, protesting. Parents might feel their child is a perfectly formed “debater” already but really, formal debating has a lot more to offer our children.
Debating is more than just protest, argument, or even structured protest. True debate allows students to first master their knowledge of a case – an issue in the wider world that has two or more available perspectives. This is called the ‘resolution.’
Campers then come together in groups of two, paired as teams on either the ‘government’ or ‘opposition’ side of the resolution. In a sequence of timed speeches, they present their side, rebut the views of their opponents, and, in some debate styles, field and answer questions.
All of this is done with a sense of diplomacy, tact, and an emphasis on listening to one’s opponents in order to rebut their points effectively – not simply “arguing” from a preconceived point of view. In essence, campers are made the all-convincing ‘teacher’ of their subject – thereby reinforcing and retaining what they now know to the highest degree available in the learning process.
These are life skills worth cultivating and although not all is lost on the present fixation with digital media, at least we can create a valuable counter-medium that allows students to come face-to-face and engage their thinking and make meaning of it and perhaps most importantly, remember and retain what they have learned 90% of the time.
Preparing for the future
What can expertise in debate do for the future of your child and the world at large? It develops young people who can come together and intellectually clash, out in the open (not just behind their screens) on topics to do with justice, international conflicts, industrial practices ethics, the shifting global balance of power, changing laws, and improving systems of healthcare and education.
In other words, we can make the future better by helping to improve how young people will deal with difficult issues. These are the young people we leave our future world in the hands of – it is a future that needs active thinkers, listeners, and very much so – debaters!
Debate for all levels of campers
Debate Camp has provided training in public speaking and debate to students in grades 5-11 throughout New England since 2015. Some students come with existing skills and experience and engage in a week of higher-level training aimed at honing competitive-level skills.
Others are completely new to the skill set and are provided with a program designed to build confidence in speaking publically and convincingly. Skills-building, games, inspiring co-thinkers and trainers, and an overall great experience are hallmarks of this fantastic week.
Nick Szymanis is Program Director of Debate Camp, a public speaking and debate camp with four new England locations in 2018. For more information and to register, check their website. Also see their ad in Kidoinfo’s 2018 Camp & Summer Program KidoGuide.