How Far Is Too Far?

Mehr Singh & Rachel Stone Co-Sports Editor & Co-Features Editor Although many of us sitting in the audience at the recent fishbowl were not able to speak our minds, we were all left with much to say. Some of the participants of the fishbowl (as well as spectators who were unable to share their opinions) shared their views with us, as we discussed the importance of debating and fishbowls in our Latin community. Senior prefect Dillon Sharp completely supports the importance of debate, and went on to say, “A discussion or debate allows students to talk amongst themselves and form their own opinions on the issue being discussed.” Though it might have been difficult to hear what everyone has to say in assembly-wide debates, some people believe that fishbowls can truly represent the voices of the entire student body. However, History teacher Mr. Gilden expressed his opinion that in fishbowls, “the topics of conversation are going to be safer, easier, more generic and less personal. Not everyone is on the same page.” Even so, Mr. Gilden also believes that in class debates you can, “ cross more boundaries and talk about more difficult subjects, because of the trust and rapport that exists.” Though in class debates it may be easier to be called on, the issue of teacher bias is prevalent. Some students such as Dillon believe that “the good teachers are the ones who can lead a successful debate among students without letting their personal bias get in the way.” However, refuting this point, freshman Frankie Burik has the opinion that teacher bias can be beneficial, “ if it brings a certain passion and urgency to the debate.” On the other hand, if teachers make their biases apparent, as science teacher Mr. Choi explains, students “might be shaded and filtered by what [they] might think the teacher wants to hear.” Dillon agreed with Mr. Choi as he states, “ I think it would be silly to assume that a bunch of high-schoolers sitting down having a discussion would all share their true beliefs on an issue. People give in to social pressures and want to appear as a different person.” Mr. Gilden disagrees and feels that “ students are quite open with how they feel, and don’t try to cater their opinions to mine.” Much of the trouble with debates, both in assembly and in class, is that there are no clear boundaries of what can and can’t be discussed. The nature of debates, is that they tend to go in a variety of directions, but how far is too far? According to Dillon, “the one and only thing I would object to taking class time to talk about is when a discussion is focused on insulting or demeaning another person. Cubs game? Fine. Academic Proposal? Fine. Sex? Fine. Drugs? Fine. In my ideal world, teachers and students would be mature enough to talk about any topic, and recognize those of which they should steer clear.” Mr. Choi understands that students will “want to talk about topics that are not directly related to the subject at hand,” as “teachers value their relationships with students beyond just the curriculum.” He draws the line “when participants feel offended or threatened; not just feeling awkward.” Though it is inevitable that debates never go as planned, as Dillon suggests, “ if people were aware and thinking about issues before they happened, rather than after the fact, many could be avoided.”]]>