My Mutant Ninja Teenage Daughter is a debater. This means that she and a couple dozen young teenagers spend a lot of their free time researching; practicing debate; and then competing in tournaments. Yes, you are reading correctly, this entry is about teenagers who study many hours on their own and work really hard to perform in a debate tournament where they receive no grades nor class credit!
Their fervency for this extra-curricular activity reminds me of the television show GLEE where the students are passionate singers and dancers: in real life, these Mutant Ninja Teen Debaters are passionate learners and public speakers.
While most teens enjoy engaging in the art of argument - all of mine are experts: especially when I ask them to do to something they do not want to do - these MN Teens are actually learning to argue skillfully.
While most teenagers spend hours on Facebook or their Tumblir, these MN Teens are researching and writing their impacts face to face with their peers - working as a team. ***Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University and former Secretary of the Treasury, recently wrote a great article in the NY Times on preparing young people for the working world. In it he wrote, ‘As greater value is placed on collaboration, surely it should be practiced more in our nation’s classrooms.’
While most teens are focused on what their peers are wearing, what parties they are attending and who is the most popular boy or girl at the moment (the kids who spins the most drama!), these MN Teens are focused on learning both sides of their debate topics. Some recent topics -
Abolish the Electoral College - I am not sure if at 13 years old, I even knew what the Electoral College was?
The international ban on whaling should be lifted – As a teen, my only relation to whales was going whale watching and throwing up. I never did see a whale!
Secondary Schools should provide cash awards for student achievement – When I was in highschool, the only cash awards came from working in my father’s office!
At the end of the tournament, they give trophies to the top debate teams, debaters and schools. I know it sounds cliche, but all of the Mutant Ninja Teen Debaters are winners: so much is gained from the incredible amount of work that goes into preparation and then at the debates, they must gather their nerves and stand up to speak for 3 – 5 minutes at a time in front of a judge and a crowd of parent spectators.
In Glee, the Gleeks are forever having slushies thrown in their face by the ‘kool kids’ for being different. I am thankful that the Debate-eeks at our school are part of a community that celebrates and appreciates individuality. My only concern is that as my daughter hones her arguing skills and masters debate, my only line of defense when she opens her mouth and opposes me, may be to throw a slushie in her face!
***Read the whole article by Larry Summers by clicking on the underlined phrase from his article above! Very interesting read on your children’s future.