The Deaf Debate was one of the students favorite final projects last week. In deaf culture class, students were introduced to the modern debate about how deaf children should be taught to communicate. On one side was Clerc's argument that sign language should be the primary way of teaching the deaf and on the other was Bell's argument that oralism should be the primary way. The class was presented with the argument and given the choice to choose which side.
Through the process of this debate, students adamantly asked me several times which side I was on. I refused to tell them until after the debate was finally over. I told them, that my goal as a teacher was not to tell them what to think but to help them discover how they think and how they learn as an individual. Students were given the opportunity to choose their side of the debate and then search out information to bolster their own arguments. This was a metacognition exercise allowing students to hone an awareness and understanding of how they learn and think as individuals. Then I gave them the final challenge to filter this process through what they have learned in God's word.
These kids are growing into critical thinkers that can both articulate a well-informed argument and respond to another's differing argument with consideration and respect. Praise the Lord!
Below is an article that Mr. Ownby wrote as he was a secondary teacher walking through the process with the students!
Do you remember having arguments when you were younger that were based upon your sense of right and wrong? Do you remember feeling like there was no way you could ever get through to your counterpart, and the frustration associated with that? Do you even remember other people taking that person’s side for reasons that you felt were completely irrelevant to the conflict? Do you remember the judge (whomever it may have been) even ruling against you, but you still felt you were right? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. The students in Red and Teal classes have likely been there before whether it was with a sibling, classmate, family member, or someone at a sporting event. This past week however, was not one of those occurrences.
This past week in Language Arts, the students got to experience a facilitated debate where they did research, chose a side based upon their perspective of what was more accurate, and brought their interpersonal and linguistic abilities to the proverbial table. The topic was the ongoing sign language debate. Was it better for our society to teach sign language to the deaf community in schools, or to teach them to utilize oralism (the system of teaching deaf people to communicate by the use of speech and lip-reading rather than sign language)? I often see our students enlivened by their own perspectives, but I was encouraged in the way that they made valid points based upon their research, considered the perspective of those they were arguing for, and utilized the vocabulary related to the those they were representing! At times, each group would take turns, at other times we would allow the intensity to build letting the students engage in individual debates across the room (not a typical debate format, but it was an exercise we were willing to let the students engage in for the sake of being able to express themselves in a healthy way), and at other times they would even concede to the arguments made by their opponents.
“This is so intense.” “I love it!” These were a couple of the comments made by one student. Students were meeting together during lunch to discuss what points they were going to make next. Most importantly, you could hear the ethic that is developing within our students. You could hear their sense of justice and righteousness based upon the holy ethic they have been learning from God’s word. These are no ordinary kids. God is doing something great with these students! I’m really appreciative of Mrs. Hartnell for organizing such an exciting opportunity for the students. If you want to know the outcome of the debate…just ask one of them! Thanks for reading.
Written By Mr. Steven Ownby