Formal debates are normally reserved for politicians on Capitol Hill and television punditry, but Campolindo seniors are being given the opportunity to compete as well. In Government teacher Paul Verbanszky’s classes, student debates have focused on social issues like Occupy Wall Street and the bank bailouts, as well as time-tested disputes such as capitalism versus socialism.
Fourth period’s debate on Wednesday focused on the controversial issue of poverty in America. Allison Tuohy and Brenna Williams came out of the gate in support of substantial welfare for the impoverished. Williams appealed to the audience’s emotional sentiment by asking, “Do we as the United States want to be known a compassion-less society?”
Kelli Cunnane and Corinne Bozzini quickly countered by arguing that welfare creates a cycle of dependency in which the poor are unable to work for themselves. Referencing a statistic that explained how 98% of Americans have refrigerators, Bozzini said, “the poor in America are a lot better off than most Americans think.”
The debate became particularly intense during the “crossfire” portion, in which the four female contestants debated the prevalence of single mothers on welfare. “If mothers married the father of their children, almost three-fourths of children would be lifted out over poverty,” said Bozzini.
Other debates included Chris Wellbrook and Tatianna Gessling facing off on the question of whether sexism is present in the workplace, and Avery Stratford arguing passionately against federal funding for programs like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio.
Verbanszky has held debates in his Government class for the past four years, tying them into issues that his students have researched and studied over the semester. He believes “presentation skills are very important in current society” and through the debate process, his students work “to be able to strongly support their arguments.”
The fact that students are forced to debate on the sides of issues they may personally oppose works toward this objective. “I personally think the arts should be funded,” said Stratford.
Williams explained her preparation process after the debate: “I outlined what I was going to say by thinking about their perspective.” She said the debate was exhilarating, and that “tensions were quite high.”