Grade 8 held a series of debates, a culminating project for Rashi middle schoolers, relating back to William Golding’s “The Lord of The Flies”. The students were focused and determined in their research, writing, and collaboration in preparation for the debate. They covered four motions, including:
- Jack was a more effective leader than Ralph
- The boys should be held responsible for Simon’s death
- People are inherently evil
- The needs of the individual outweigh the needs of society
Our students spent the last three weeks preparing for these debates, but they have been gathering information (whether they knew it or not) since the beginning of the school year. In their English classes, students have read texts that deal with essential questions about human thought and behavior. They looked at dystopias and the warnings that they provide to us. They studied powerful speeches, debate techniques, and rhetorical appeals like ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic).
While this was a debate in Rashi’s English class, students drew on their knowledge of multiple disciplines: history, Jewish studies, law, science, psychology, and others. The four debates took themes from the book, and used them as starting points to discuss important and enduring issues. The debates focused on leadership, responsibility, inherent evil, and individual vs. communal needs.
The goal was for the debates to be seen as a conversation, not an argument; and through debating one another, students were able to gain new and deeper understandings of the topics at hand.