Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Antioch High will hold presidential debate

Metro Schools' only debate team will encourage 18-year-olds to vote By Suzanne Normand Blackwood • THE TENNESSEAN • October 29, 2008 The 2008 presidential election is the first in which many high school students will have an opportunity to vote. As a way of encouraging eligible Antioch High School students to go to the polls, the school's debate team is hosting a presidential debate at 1:15 p.m. Nov. 3, the day before the election. One side will debate for Sen. John McCain and the other for Sen. Barack Obama. Participants will grill one another with questions they developed themselves. Made up of two teams, each with two students and two teachers, the debate will be the first time students and teachers have participated together in a public debate. The idea for the debate stemmed from a conversation that took place after school one day between Assistant Principal Bruce Curtis and a student. "They were talking about the election. It was a very relaxed conversation, like a fireside chat," said debate coach Carrol Trusty. Curtis lightheartedly challenged the student to a debate. "We thought it was a fantastic idea and expanded it," Trusty said. Seniors will have an opportunity to attend the debate. Trusty said it would focus on "the issues." "It's strictly an effort to educate," she said. Donation funds debate team Antioch High School, which receives funding for its debate program by the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, is the only area public school that offers debate classes and has a public policy debate team. The challenge for most schools is lack of funding, said Pam Garrett, executive director for the Nashville Alliance for Public Education. "It always helps when you have an interested donor," she said. A few years ago, the alliance had an anonymous donor who wanted the donation to go toward debate. Trusty had been paying for four students at Antioch to attend debate competitions. Through the help of the anonymous donor, though, an endowment was set up that allowed for as many as 19 students to attend competitions. Metro group hopes to add other schools Garrett said the alliance has also received other donations that have helped, and it hopes to expand its support to other Metro schools. As part of the program, the Nashville Alliance for Public Education also takes students to visit the Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis law firm, where they have an opportunity to exhibit their debate skills before the attorneys. "It's very inspirational for them and for the attorneys," Garrett said. What debate does for individual students and the debate team is evident, she said. "The kids who debate grow and mature and create a whole new vision for their future that they might not otherwise."

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