Students debate in Federal Building

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

A group of Oxford gifted students recently debated in the Federal Building in Oxford.

Liz Phillips and Mary Martha Crowe, both sixth-grade INSIGHTS teachers at Oxford Intermediate School, said the gifted program is state-mandated for grades two to six, and process skills must be addressed. Debate is one of the areas that must be addressed under communication skills.   

“For many years, sixth-grade INSIGHTS students have participated in debates, Crowe said. “In the past, the debates have been held in the moot courtrooms at the (University of Mississippi) law school, but for the past two years, the debates have been held at the Federal Building in its courtrooms.”

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Crowe said about a month prior to the debates, sixth grade INSIGHTS students were placed in teams of three or four. After learning parliamentary debate and how to research, teams were assigned assertions.

She said an example of an assertion is: Reality television does more harm than good.

“Teams had to research both sides (proposition or opposition) of the assertion, so they would be able to refute their opponents’ arguments,” Crowe said. “After forming reasons and researching evidence to support both sides of the assertion, students were assigned a side to argue.”

“A week prior to the debates, students were given the side for which they would argue in the debate (proposition or opposition), and they formed their arguments and practiced.”

After they arrived at the Federal Building, students were divided into two courtrooms with a gifted teacher and parents in each courtroom. Parents who are attorneys or judges served as the judges for the debate. 

“After teams debated, they went to the jury room for a break, then went to the courtroom to watch their peers,” Crowe said. “Students were either watching, debating or decompressing in the jury rooms.”

Students debated 15 assertions. 

“Although the judges did tell a winner and a loser, we didn’t keep up with it,” she said. “The experience was more important to us than the outcome.”

According to Crowe, students said the debates made them nervous, but they were fun. They learned to be more confident, make eye contact, and said they felt like it helped prepare them for the future.

“Some students said they were really scared, but learned they can overcome fears,” she said. “Some said it made them want to be attorneys. Some are eager to join the debate team at OHS.”

Crowe said she hopes students take away confidence, perseverance, the real-world application of teamwork, research, the need to understand current issues, and getting past your own biases to defend an opinion.

She said students were required to read and comprehend, sort through propaganda and bias, sort through relevant information, interpret statistics, and work together to achieve an outcome.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is

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