2 thoughts on “Tolerance and “debate days”

  1. Great ideas for debate days! I also have found it helpful to provide students with a background packet of information. I like the idea of inviting students to self understanding before they articulate their position. Your insightful post raises further questions for me. How do you communicate the goal of seeking truth while asking them to argue for one side or another? I like your approach because you invite them to self understanding and you invite them to think more critically about an issue, which in turn leads to truth. At the same time, I worry that if a student is not asked to formulate his/her own position and both sides are being presented in the readings and the discussions, the debates might become an interesting intellectual exercise that ultimately does not demand personal integration. How do attain objective 8.2, convincing the students that Church has a compelling argument? What happens when the students suporting a position against Church teaching are making better arguments than the students arguing in favor of Church teaching?

    • As to lopsided arguments, I’ve only gone through this once. A strong student happened to be sick on the debate day, so I ended up having to step in to help that side out. I control for lopsided debates by making sure that I have at least one strong student on each side of the debate. This typically happens without any machinations when I split the class alphabetically down the middle. Once, I had to bump someone onto a side that didn’t match her place in the alphabet.

      Great question about intellectual exercise vs. personal integration. I force their hand on integration throughout the whole course, but never on one particular day. What I mean is that on the first day the students have to turn in “position statements” about where they are on all the moral issues we’ll study throughout the semester. Then at the end of the semester they have to reflect on whether and how those initial positions have changed, been challenged, or been buttressed. This seems to work well. But I’ll do more on that in another post.

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