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The People Speak: Global Debates: Debates at school

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Making Public Debates Happen at Your School

Organizing public debates at your school as part of The People Speak Global Debates can be a very rewarding experience, as well as a lot of fun. Most importantly, however, it can be very easy. We would like to offer you some tips on how to best go about organizing a debate at your school on this year’s Global Debate topic (Market mechanisms are preferable to regulatory approaches in reducing carbon emissions).

When and Where to Organize Debates

Public debates should be organized during the 10 days between 12th (Friday) to 22nd (Monday) of October, 2007. This period will include two weekends and 5 school days. Here are three possible options for selecting a place to organize a TPS Global Debate event:

OPTION I: Class Debate

Organize your debate during a class: This is the easiest option and the one that will require the least organization. You will still need to prepare for the debate, of course, but there is no need to invite your audience or arrange a special room for the debate. All you need to do is to make sure that your teachers agree that the debate takes place during their class (make sure you ask your teachers in advance!). Agree on a suitable date and class and determine whether you need to rearrange the classroom for the debate, make sure you ask your teacher and do it at an appropriate time. You will need to decide which class is best for the debate on this year’s topic: this could be a science class, economics class (social studies class), or . . . given the importance of the topic, any other class!

Creative ideas

Here are a few creative ideas on other possible events during your school's regular classes:

  1. In order to increase audience participation, combine two or more classes! It may be possible for two or more science classes happening at the same time to join the debate event. Make sure you approach the teachers long in advance and ask them if such an arrangement is possible. You will need a bigger room for such a debate, so you may also need to approach your school’s administration.
  1. If your school has an intercom system, you may be able to “air” your debate to all classrooms at the same time. You will definitely need to speak about this to the school administration to make sure it is okay with them. Such preparation needs to be done long in advance before the date of the debate. Check with the appropriate staff what the technical requirements are and whether you will be able to do a live debate or have it recorded in advance. In some schools, a potentially good time to air the debate is during lunch, when the majority of students have time off classes. If your school has a radio club or program, check with them; they may be interested in hosting the debate or they may be able to arrange an air time for your debate.
  1. Use a school assembly as an opportunity to organize a debate. This way you will get a big audience and you will not need to organize a special room or publicize the debate. All you need to do is ask if there is room for a debate on the assembly's agenda. Remember to talk to the appropriate school authorities about this option and do so long in advance. Because an assembly can reach a large number of students early in the school year, an assembly is a great way to showcase your debate club and attract new members, while participating in TPS.
  1. Coordinate a series of debates across the school. It may be difficult from the organization point of view, but it is definitely worth a try: organize many simultaneous debates in your school during different classes at the same time! You will definitely need to approach your school administration and present your idea to them in order to get permission. You will also need to coordinate with your friends from other grades and make sure that they are on board and that somebody will present a debate during their class. Talk to representatives of your youth School Council -– they may be a helpful ally in coordinating a series of debates. This debate series on a particular day and during all the classes may have a big impact and be a great campaign project!

OPTION II: School Day Debate

Organize your debate after school on a weekday: this is a great way of getting a bigger audience from different grades and you may be able to also invite your parents and community members to the debate. As in other cases, ask your school administration if it would be possible to organize a debate after school. You will need to discuss the time and suitable place. You can also create a list of invited guests from outside the school. Your school may have special procedures for organizing such after school events and you will need to comply with your school’s policies. It is important that you inform the school administration about your idea long in advance and make sure that you have complied with all of the safety regulations.

Once you have secured the venue and the time for the debate, you will need to publicize the event amongst your fellow students. The best way to do this is through your school’s notice board (or any other place where posters and notices are posted) -– making sure you have asked appropriate school staff if it is okay to post your announcement there.

Creative ideas

  1. You may use the school intercom system to make a public announcement (PA) about the debate. Come up with a catchy and appealing way to publicize the event!
  2. If there is a Parent’s Board at your school, approach them and see if they may help you to invite parents to your event. Do not forget to invite your own parents!

OPTION III: Weekend School Event

Organize your Global Debate on a weekend: this could allow you to bring more participants to the event and make the event longer –- possibly including other components to it (e.g. a sports event, debate competition, etc.). The weekend event is potentially the biggest event you can organize at your school as part of the TPS Global Debates and it will require a lot of time and effort. Just as with the other possible events, make sure you ask your school administration for permission and coordinate the organization with appropriate staff members. You will need to decide and agree on the place and exact time of your event. Since a weekend event can potentially turn into a big event, you will need to start planning long in advance, possibly even from the first week of school, in order to make all preparations by the two weekends in October.

Since you may want to invite audience from outside of the school -- make sure you follow appropriate procedures and your school’s policies and that you advertise the event long in advance -– possibly outside of the school building.

Creative ideas

  1. Use the local media: local media are a great way to publicize an open event at your school- talk to your teachers and school administration first and make sure they are on board before you contact a local paper or radio station (your Principle may in fact know some people there!).
  2. Combine your public debate with other possible events: photo-exhibition about the environment, performance of your school’s band or choir, sports event, etc.
  3. Organize a number of public speaking events -- a debate festival! -– using different debate formats and speech categories and possibly a small debate tournament (make sure you prepare all of the necessary logistics).
  4. Since your event may be one of many events on that day, you may want to organize refreshments for the audience, guests and participants. If funds are necessary, you may want to look for sponsors.
  5. You may want to involve local environmental organizations in the project. They will be more than happy to assist you if you approach them in advance and make a specific proposal/request -- outlining what their role may be (e.g. bringing in a guest speaker, setting up a stand with promotional material, etc.)

The ideas above are suggestions only. Feel free to use your creativity and inventiveness to come up with other possible ways of organizing your Global Debates.

Whom to Involve

Organizing a debate: Even one that requires the least organizational preparation, will still require the involvement of a team of people. The good news is that you will not be able to organize TPS Global Debates event by yourself and you will need a team's involvement. Here are the necessary and optional “players”:

  1. Debaters: For each debate, you will need two teams of two speakers each (Public Forum format). They will need to prepare their debate cases (arguments and evidence) and be ready to debate this year’s TPS topic on a given day.
  2. Organizers: The bigger the event you plan to organize, the more people you will need to involve. They can be your friends from the debate club at your school or friends from your class. Think of different roles they will need to play in the organization of the event and the different tasks they will need to undertake.
  3. School staff and administration: You will not only need to obtain their consent for the organization of the events at your school, but school staff and administration can also be your greatest allies in the organizing of the event. They can offer you suggestions, expertise, and connections. Decide who of the staff you feel most comfortable talking to first, such as your debate coach, your form teacher, etc. Then, present your ideas to them first. See if they may be interested in assisting you with talking to the school principle and other teachers.
  4. School Council: Most schools would have a school's council composed of students elected to represent the student body. Approach the School Council with your ideas and see how they can help you.
  5. Parents: It is always great to involve parents in your school events. Parents can not only assist in organization of bigger events (for example: driving, getting necessary supplies), but they can also be a great audience and judges of your debates.
  6. Media and other organizations: When organizing a big event, you may need assistance from the media to publicize it and possibly involve other organizations in the event (e.g. environmental groups, etc.)

Convincing Teachers and Students

You may need to convince teachers and students to participate in the Global Debate event. If you do, you may want to highlight the importance of the topic, the educational value of argumentation, the empowering skills of public speaking, and so on.

Ideally, if you could connect the topic to related issues in the current or upcoming curriculum content, then teachers would be more willing to include such an event in their class or for their school. TPS is about becoming socially active in a responsible way, using critical thinking, speaking, argument skills -- things that are a regular part of school curriculum and a necessary part of life. Remember, there is a Global Debate in October of 2007 and another in March of 2008 and both are great chances to make a difference in the world. Because it is an international event for an important cause, you will naturally draw positive attention to the topic at hand, as well as your debate club, your debaters, your school, and your community.

Along with such value, there is the grand prize of a trip to the UN for winning schools, as well as the potential to earn wonderful prizes for your schools through the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) DebateTracker Points program.

Students may be attracted to the Global debate in a number of ways. First of all, it's a chance to witness an entertaining debate. Watching a good debate can be compared to watching a good sport, so it would be a welcome break for students, while also being something educational -- teachers like that. Secondly, because your debate club will be representing the school, it's a great way to bolster school spirit. Thirdly, it's an excellent opportunity to show debate to your fellow students, and can serve as a possible recruitment opportunity for your club. Because you learn critical analysis, research, and communication, the skills you learn in debate are important for many subjects, for further schooling, for good jobs, and for life in general. Put simply, debate is fun, exciting, and empowering -- three things most students wouldn't shy away from.

What to Remember

Once you have decided what event(s) you would like to organize and who you want to approach and involve in the organization process, you can check out the tips below on how to best assure the success of your debate project:

  1. Start Planning Early!: The bigger the event, the earlier you need to start. Do not leave everything to the last minute! Good preparation will save you a lot of last minute stress and worries.
  2. Be On Top of It!: Know and be able to explain to others why you are organizing the event. Learn more about this year’s TPS Global Debates and the topic: Market mechanisms are preferable to regulatory approaches in reducing carbon emissions (consult for additional information and toolkits).
  3. Inform!: Inform your teachers and school administration about the project. Seek their advice and let them know of any changes or new ideas. They will need to approve a lot of specific details of your event and they may be able to offer you their assistance.
  4. Include!: Involve other students in the organization of the event. Harness their talents and creativity.
  5. Coordinate!: Divide the roles and tasks within your organizing group clearly and agree on relevant deadlines.
  6. Support!: Support each other and be nice to each member of the team -– everybody likes a pat on the back from time to time!
  7. Pay attention to details!: For instance, make sure you have enough copies of Scantron forms for your audience, enough seats for members of the audience, etc. Also, don't forget to get enough sleep before the big event!
  8. Report!: Do not forget to report about your event to us: for details on reporting check

We wish you great success with organizing and hosting your TPS Global Debates events at your schools -- Good Luck!

Main pages for the 2007 Global Debates

External Links

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