School teaches students how to argue

January 4, 2010 2:50:35 PM PST
Most schools usually do what they can to prevent arguing and fighting. But researchers say the ability to argue is a skill that's vital to success in college and the workplace. So some schools are actually promoting students' ability to argue.

Students at one school took park in an exercise on "The Art of Arguing," discussing whether our country should send more troops to Afghanistan.

"We're going to Afghanistan to try to keep peacekeeping forces, so we're trying to prevent these killings from happening," one student said.

"Look what has happened to us in other wars of a similar nature, such as Vietnam and Korea," another student countered.

They are seventh graders at the Columbia Secondary School. Although arguing is involved, it is a class in philosophy.

"We are doing argumentation as the core of what philosophers do," professor-researcher Dr. Deanna Kuhn said. "So rather than teaching them about philosophy, we engage them in philosophizing."

Dr. Kuhn is a leader in research on the importance of teaching students how to argue effectively.

"We can argue and listen to what we have to say and try to convince each other without being rude or anything," student Batia Katz said.

Students work in teams and spend weeks constructing written arguments on the assigned issues.

The debates are timed, and the teams take timeout to huddle and strengthen their arguments. Some kids think of these skills as homework.

"It really teaches me how to argue, and I've used it at home when my mom isn't letting me play my video games or read," student Zachary Levine said. "I actually won a few times."

Educators behind this program agree that the skills developed would be useful for any student, especially during these critical years of middle school.