Crossroads News

Eighth Graders Contend With Controversial Topics

End-of-year debates encourage students to appreciate the diversity of ideas.
When Crossroads eighth graders logged into Zoom for their Core classes last week, they were noticeably dressed to impress. Whether donning a button-down shirt, blouse or blazer, each student came to class ready to challenge their peers with professionalism for their second and final debate of the year.
Eighth graders began exploring the foundations of debate during the second trimester with Middle School Core teachers Josh Adler, Ebony Murphy-Root and Julian Laurent. After examining Aristotle’s modes of persuasion—logos (appeal to logic), pathos (appeal to emotions) and ethos (perceived credibility)—they practiced researching credible sources, composing arguments and avoiding logical fallacies. For these first debates, held in February, the students focused on issues related to immigration, asylum and refugee policies.
In mid-April, from the safety of their respective homes, the students themselves chose a range of complex topics to research for their second debates: college tuition, homework, the voting age, the electoral college, artificial intelligence and the impact of music lyrics, among others. In groups of two or three, they prepared both sides of the issue. They even received assistance from a veteran Crossroads debater, 12th-grader Kyle Lim, who worked with the Middle Schoolers as part of his Senior Project.
Last week, only moments after learning whether their team would present the affirmative or negative argument, the eighth graders eloquently delivered opening statements and rebuttals, posed questions and answers and delivered closing statements. Afterwards, their peers offered constructive feedback, and each student reflected on their own performance.
“Teamwork is really important. I couldn’t imagine doing this by myself,” says Jake Fahimian, who argued in favor of the importance of homework.
“The debate process cracks open a whole spectrum of ideas, perspectives and points of view,” reflects Jake's Core teacher, Josh. “To grapple with that at this age, going into high school, is really important and valuable.”