POV ... Pizza Over Vegetables? Polite or Vociferous?

Point of View

Any person who is familiar with the fine art of an argument is well aquainted with the truth that an argument cannot be won unless a debater is able to consider all sides of the story. It is near impossible to build a coherent argument against the other side if you lack a fundamental understanding of their position. To be able to get into the head of your opponent is to understand their weaknesses. From this perspective a cogent plan of attack can be crafted. Unfortunately, most arguments are not waged with such careful consideration. When listening to students "debate" a topic, their lack of consideration of another perspective become readily apparent. Rather than trying to win via craft, cunning, and eloquence students generally take a blunt force approach. Attempting to overwhelm the other side with noise and a barrage of words.

I've found that one way to get students to consider all sides of a story is to assign them stakeholder roles from which to consider the question that is before them. It's one thing to debate hydraulic fracturing from your own POV, it is quite another to be forced to take on the role of an oil executive for the duration of the debate. Being thrust into this position forces the consideration of another's approach to the problem. Needless to say, this is my favorite way to format classroom debates.

This past week the citizens of APES considered the question of the construction of a nuclear power plant. Here's what Nya had to say.

Nya Writes:

This week we have focused on learning about how energy is made and how humans use many resources. One of the activities we did to explore the idea of the controversy between building new power plants so that humans can have more energy to use was the nuclear power plant debate. During this debate each of the students in the classroom was assigned to play the role of someone who didn’t agree with having a nuclear power plant built in their town (a environmentalist or conservative tax payer) or someone who supported the construction of the nuclear power plant (government politicians). Each person was then given two minutes to present their argument and try to persuade the other students to agree with their stand on the argument. After everyone presented his or her argument the real arguing began. People began brining up the idea of drinking rocks, people’s houses getting blown up, and all sorts of irrational arguments that could barely be heard above the yelling. In the end of the debate out of the five students in the class three said that they would not agree with the nuclear power plant being built while the other two students agreed that the nuclear power plant should be built. In reality nuclear power plants are relatively safe to live near and can be a huge help in the energy crisis we as a country are enduring.


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