11 Apr

Mock Trial: Investigating the Origin of the Oppression of Native Americans

Les Lynn Argument and Literacy, Professional Capacity Development, Resources, The Debatifier 0 Comments


Blood on the River is a very well-regarded 2006 young adult historical novel by Eliza Carbone.  Told from the point of view of 12 year old English orphan Samuel Collier, it is set in 1606 – 1611 and tells the story of the settlement of the Jamestown colony in Virginia, from the erection of the first domiciles, to the building of the fortress that would protect the fragile colony, to the “Starving Time” in the winter of 1609-10, and beyond.

Threaded throughout the novel there are conflicts between the British aristocracy (which both sponsors the trip, in the form of the Virginia Company, and leads it, in the persons of several Captains) and commoners, and between the colonists and the native population of Virginia.  These conflicts form the heart of the novel’s concerns and interests.  This argument-based project brings these conflicts together in a debatable question that plays itself out in the classroom in the form of a mock trial that puts the British aristocracy on trial for, in effect, originating the violent oppression of the Native American population that Blood on the River anticipates and (in its closing pages) foretells.


30 Jan

Should High School Students Be Required to Take Algebra? Debating the Matter in Class Using SPontaneous ARgumentation

Les Lynn Argument and Math, Professional Capacity Development, Resources, The Debatifier

A debate has broken out over the past few years in (and beyond) education circles over whether algebra should be a high school graduation requirement.  The controversy in its current iteration was fueled when the Common Core elevated algebra to a privileged position in secondary math education.  Then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the case for the standards’ commitment to algebra in a 2011 speech to the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics.

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear to the country — not just to you guys as teachers — that algebra is a key, maybe the key, to success in college. Students who have completed Algebra II in high school are twice as likely to earn a degree as those who didn’t. Algebra teaches students reasoning and logic leading to academic success not just in math but across the curriculum.


15 Dec

Only Connect: Making Cross-Disciplinary Incorporation of Argument More Coherent & Consistent

Les Lynn Professional Capacity Development, The Debatifier

Only Connect.

— E. M. Forster, Howard’s End (1910)

When schools implement any “intervention” or improvement initiative there is the inherent challenge in trying to attain not only a fidelity to its core principles, but also a coherence and consistency across classes, teachers, and disciplines.  Schools, as intensifying reform waves have come to appreciate ever more deeply, are complex institutions with many moving parts and individual and group intentions and agendas.  The service model deployed, and theory of change embraced, by Argument-Centered Education only heightens the difficulty level, and the importance, of achieving cross-disciplinary and faculty-wide coherence and consistency of understanding and implementation.


06 Oct

SPAR Debate: A Format for Rigorous, Real, Ready-to-Go Debating in Class

Les Lynn Argument and Literacy, Classroom Debating, Professional Capacity Development, Resources, The Debatifier


SPAR Debate is an excellent way to introduce students to debating in the classroom.  It’s an activity for getting students initially exposed to debating, but also for isolating and introducing the key elements of academic argumentation.

SPAR is short for Spontaneous Argumentation debates. The term connotes, too, some of the jousting and practicing that we think of as “sparring.” SPAR Debate can be used with minimal research, and is therefore a very good format for getting students up and arguing.  SPAR Debate can be used with academic issues, as a way to begin to immerse students in curricular content, or with non-academic (“fun”) issues, as a way to focus on debating format and individual argumentation skills.


24 Sep

Playing Political Pundit: The 2016 Presidential Debates Analytic Evaluator Activity

Les Lynn Argument and Literacy, Professional Capacity Development, Resources, The Debatifier


The presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are lining up to be intensely dramatic, very extensively watched, and highly consequential to the outcome of the race.  It might be that 100 million Americans view these debates – on September 26th, October 9th, and October 19th.  Almost every one of past presidential elections in the modern era feature memorable (even unforgettable) moments produced by the debates: in the Clinton v. Trump debates history will inevitably be made, and the results of the election may be determined.