Should Private Schools Exist? Latin Speech Class Says No


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Margo Williams Last semester, Ms. Barker’s Speech class debated whether or not private schools should exist, and the team against private schools won. Each semester, the class culminates in a final project, which she dubs “The Great Speech Class Final Debate.” The intention of this debate is to provide students with an opportunity to display the skills they have been working on all semester. After students brainstorm debate topics, they then choose one with relatively equal opinions on both sides. Students frequently found that the vast majority of the class wanted to represent one side of an argument— finding a topic that split opinions equally proved difficult. For example, when considering whether or not the ACT/SAT should be a part of the college process, virtually every student believed that standardized tests do not accurately represent student’s abilities, and therefore should not be considered. With four students pro-private schools, three con, and one undecided (later assigned to the con team), the class ultimately agreed to debate whether or not private schools should exist, allowing each student to present the side he or she wanted to argue. Students spent three full class periods conducting research, developing their arguments, and anticipating what the other team’s counter arguments might be. During the debate, each side presented an introduction, presentation of argument or proof, rebuttal to the other group, and closing statement. In their opening and conclusion, the students on the anti-private school team argued, “As time passed, more resources became available for education, and we transitioned from the private school system to the public school system to ensure that every child receives an education of equitable quality. That transition is now nearly complete.” They also argued that “going to public school doesn’t mean that the sky is not the limit; it just means the prestige that follows around private school students does not exist, and therefore [doesn’t] put the public school students at a disadvantage […] If private schools ceased to exist, then everyone would have to make their own way in the world, and the land of opportunity would truly have earned its name.” The pro-private school team responded with the main argument that private schools should exist because they function independently with smaller classes and allow families more choices without being required to adhere to governmental restrictions.” Ms. Barker said, “Everyone in the class did a really amazing job on the project, so the outcome of the debate was unpredictable.” Ms. Wells and Mr. Woods, the sophomore and senior class deans, were the judges for the debate, and after deliberation they concluded that, based on their adept ability to integrate appeals and devices into an argument, the team who argued that private schools should not exist won. “The well thought out and coherent arguments made by the anti-private school team made the difference between the two arguments and led us to our decision,” explained Ms. Wells.  Fortunately for Latin’s sake, this was a hypothetical debate, without the result being implemented. This debate did an impressive job of presenting the power of the skills that students obtained in Ms. Barker’s class. Danielle Martin ‘17, a student in last semester’s speech class, said, “I find it fascinating that half a class at Latin believes private schools should be eliminated, and was able to construct an objectively well-thought out and well-delivered argument—to the point that they were able to convince two deans of a private school that private schools should be eliminated.” Ms. Barker’s speech class enables her students to acquire skills that allow them to successfully present an argument and become more valuable advocates for themselves and others. Effective persuasive speeches have the ability to completely shift an opinion, alter a bias, or coax someone into doing something they’d never otherwise consider, as in the case of Ms. Barker’s “Great Speech Class Final Debate.”]]>