Eighth Grade Social Studies Students Join Together for a Debate on Slavery

Elizabeth Gonzalez, Reporter

As the moments passed, the tension in the cafeteria got stronger. Representatives on both sides of the slavery debate argued their key points with their hands gesturing as they defended their opinions. Having prepared for this day for weeks, the candidates felt the sweat drip off their faces as they grew more anxious and nervous at the questions being asked by the moderators. Finally, they took deep breaths and let out their answers. Clapping from the sign-holding audience engulfed the cafeteria.

In February, 8th graders gained first-hand experience of a political debate in their combined social studies classes. Even though the topics for the debate were about past historical events, the idea for the debate itself was inspired by an important ongoing event.

“The presidential debate has been going on, so we wanted the students to understand how a debate worked,” Mr. Shelby, teacher intern, said.

The teachers set up the debate like a presidential debate with a panel of candidates, moderators, and a gallery of spectators. Each class period had two candidates and two moderators. The rest sat in the gallery, held signs in support of their candidate, and asked questions. In order to have the best results, the students had to prepare for the debate.

“I went over my questions with peers and parents,” Khamarea Campbell said.

Before students attended the debate, they had to study the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Fugitive Slave laws, Bleeding Kansas, proslavery and antislavery arguments, and events that led up to the Civil war which either brought America together or pulled it apart.

As the students prepared for the debate, some came across challenges.

“The most challenging thing was being in front of everyone else,” Jaylin Williams said.

During the debate, the students showcased what they had practiced for weeks.

“I was most proud of the intensity of the debate,” Mr. Morris said. “I felt such intensity was a good indicator of the students’ passion for the material.”

The students’ response to the debate was better than the teachers had expected.

“I was really proud of all of my students who had the guts to get up there and put themselves out in front of their peers like that!” Mrs. Holland said. “It also made me really proud to see Khamarea and Andrea stand their own ground and actually be able to justify their thoughts and feeling while still remaining respectful.”