Catholic Elementary School Introduces Students to Debate
Some topics spiritual, others practical
ANCHORAGE - It's a program usually reserved for high school, but some older elementary students in an Anchorage Catholic school are learning to debate.
They came here for an argument.
"I thought it'd be fun to argue with people," said Maeve Bakic
"I really like the concept of arguing… I don't know, it gets your brain to think about the possibilities of things," Alyssa Robertson said.
These fifth and sixth graders at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School are learning to debate a few years earlier than most students get the opportunity.
"The goal is to think on our feet. The goal is to communicate. We need to get our thought process out. A lot of times we have it up here. We don't know how to express that feeling or thought. And that's what we want the kids to do," said Debate Coach Doug Stewart.
And there's an overt spiritual element to the program. Ultimately, the idea is to instill confidence in the students when they have occasions to talk about god with non-believers.
"…How he's a part of everything that we do in our faith and how that our faith is not only when we walk into the doors of the church; it's really when we walk out of the doors of the church," Steward said. "That's when we put our faith into effect."
11-year-old Alyssa Robertson has a ready response when she hears people say they don't believe in god. "I say because sometimes when you're having a hard time with something, I say a prayer sometimes and I can feel god around me and it helps me get through things."
But that doesn't mean that regular topics are out of bounds.
A big topic recently was whether there should be school uniforms. 11-year-old Maeve Bakic argued the negative.
"If you take away their freedom to dress, they're going to focus on something else. They're going to focus on the way your hair's styled, they're going to focus on whether you have glasses, braces, the way you walk, the kind of shoes you have, rings, bracelets, necklaces," Bakic said.
Coach Doug Stewart says his charges have come a long way since the program started last fall.
"Can you see the confidence level is a lot higher,” Stewart asked in class. “The eye contact. You guys aren't dancing all over the room. You're focused."
“…I got to tell you, the kids are excited; they're motivated; they're ready to learn," Stewart said.
Filled with the spirit, they're set on engaging the world. There could be a school-wide debating event sometime this month.