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To summarize: Any comprehensive Health Program for schools should embrace at least the following:
I. Program of Physical Training activities, embracing games, calesthenics, supervised recesses, competitive athletics, recreation tramping. A constructive effort upon the child's body.
II. Program for controlling growth handicaps:
This to operate through medical inspection, dental clinics, and the work of nurses or hygienists. This should operate as a corrective and prophylactic department. III. Program for right and efficient living:
This is largely operative through the teacher. Her aim must be health habits. Hers is the work to unify, organize, inspire and evaluate. This is a study and practice department.
IV. Compulsory Health education which shall make promotion at some time impossible when the child is carrying forward with him remediable defects whose removal or correction is not dangerous, and the presence of which will in all probability render him a less efficient citizen.
The Academic Debate-Its Aims and Method
CLARENCE S. DIKE, ATLANTIC CITY HIGH SCHOOL,
R. WILLIAM A. WETZEL, Principal of the Trenton High School, had an article in "Education" for September, in which, under the above title, he questioned the value of the academic debate. He contended that the only answer to error is truth, and maintained that the debate failed to advance the truth, inasmuch as (1) it does not state the problem in such a way as to find the truth; (2) it does not put the student in the attitude of wanting to know the truth; (3) it does not put him in a situation where he is most likely to find the truth; and (4) it does not give him the kind of moral training that would lead him to advocate the truth. The article calls attention to several undesirable tendencies in connection with the methods of conducting academic debates. But the author, to give emphasis to his article, speaks of these tendencies in the light of actualities necessarily ever-existent.
That there is a tendency for debating in high school and college to present a partisan attitude toward absolute truth, there can be no doubt. That it actually always does so is questionable. All methods and practices, whether educational, political, economic, or religious, are more or less subject to the same criticism. The world is searching for absolute truth; but it has to compromise with evil, because of the inconsistencies of our civilization. For instance, our modern system of court procedure has been criticised. One lawyer argues that black is white; another lawyer, equally veracious and honorable, argues that white is black. It is assumed that somehow, between the conflicting contentions, justice will appear. It is true that too often she is a gray compromise rather than an ideal; but should we abolish our court practice because it does not always relate itself to the absolute truth? Merely be
cause a particular
cast out as unfit?
practice is subject to criticism, should it be Until it can be proved that the evil in the practice exceeds the good, or until something better is evolved, it is common sense to continue the practice.
Let us take up the four points upon which the article bases its indictment. First, does the debate state the problem in such a way as to find the truth? Granting that some few questions are poorly stated, in that they allow for quibbling as to the meaning of terms, most questions are very carefully worded so as to bring about a real clash of ideas, balancing as nearly as possible the conflicting opinions on the subject. The question: "Resolved, that immigration should be prohibited for the next two years," was objected to, on the ground that it was narrow, and did not involve a careful study of the whole problem of immigration. Is it to be expected that high school students should understand all the history and politics involved in any broad subject like immigration? Time was when such broad topics as "Education," "Virtue," "Adversity," and the like, were assigned as themes for English composition; but we have grown sensible in our understanding of what the adolescent mind is capable of. We now narrow a subject for the sake of unity and definiteness. So it is with the question for debate. A specific problem is stated which calls for specific treatment as part of the truth. Isn't it better to have a definite, concrete conception of part of the truth than to have a general, abstract, indefinite idea of the whole truth? By apprehending such pieces of truth from time to time, a pattern of the whole truth may, by a process of induction, be constructed.
Secondly, does the debate put the student in the attitude of wanting to know the truth? There is no doubt a tendency on the part of the individual student who argues for a thing to become prejudiced in favor of the trend of his argument. The good debating coach, however, knows that both sides of the argument must be clearly understood. Where both sides are studied, even though, for the purposes of argument, one champions a side, he is very likely to form definite opinions on the subject; and the writer's experience has been that instances are very numerous of debaters
who confess, after the debating season is over, that their sympathies are with the opposite side And in extenuation of the tendency toward a biased opinion on the part of some students, doesn't one form his opinions on what he hears and reads anyway? Suppose those same pupils had been one-sided in their reading and conversation on the subject, would they be any less prejudiced? The debating training certainly has the advantage of presenting both sides.
In the third place, does the academic debate put the student in a situation where he is most likely to learn the truth? This question is already answered in the second. Preparation for an academic debate means to gather evidence to prove one's side. And to prove one's side, one must understand the side of the opponent. Both sides are weighed and carefully studied. One's opinion is formed in the process, irrespective of the demands of the question. If the question had not made a demand, the opinion would not have been formed.
Finally, does the academic debate give the student the kind of moral training that would lead him to advocate the truth? The answer to this question is so involved in the philosophy of education and the conduct of life that it would probably take a sage to answer it. Dr. Wetzel claims that arguing for what one does not sincerely believe is immoral at all times and under every circumstance. Would he criticise dramatics because the actor says and does things contrary to his own personality? The debate is a game, a contest, in which the contestants are playing a part. The more spirit of rivalry there is in the event, the more does one feel the spirit of the contest. To eliminate the spirit of make-believe as immoral is to deprive the world of its greatest buoyancy and its highest imagination.
The final conclusion, therefore, is that although debating, like anything else in life, is not perfect, still until something better is evolved it is one of the best devices for motivating oral expression and for teaching some of the essential problems of citizenship.
Dr. Wetzel's article offers a substitute for debating as it is now conducted. He says: "The kind of debate that should be encour
aged in our schools is the kind typified by the Lincoln-Douglas debate, or the Webster-Hayne debates. It would be necessary to score each debater independently for the thoroughness of his study, the logic of his conclusions, and the clarity of his exposition." To assume that such a public speaking contest will ever displace the game of debating is to assume that throwing the medicine ball will displace the game of football.
It must be conceded, however, that some of the debaters in high school and college are likely to become convinced of the validity of their own arguments, and so form their opinions on current problems a little hastily The cause of this tendency is inherent in the debate itself. To remove the cause entirely would tend to render the debate a mere speaking contest, such as Dr. Wetzel suggests as a substitute, devoid of the incentive of rivalry, the motivating principle of the debate. Since the tendency cannot be removed without killing the contest, the question arises: Should the operation be performed, or should the patient be allowed to live, in the hope that the effects of the malady-which are greatly exaggerated, anyway-may be checked and in a measure prevented?
And how can this tendency be lessened? First, all candidates for places on the contest should be allowed to speak on either side of the question. Second, those who make places on the team should be drilled in speaking on both sides of the question. Third, the debating coach should guard the speakers against forming their opinions hastily. Fourth, two contests might be held wherever practicable, the debaters changing sides in the second contest.
Such a prescription ought to prove quite efficacious in checking an undesirable element in academic debating, an element the effects of which Dr. Wetzel so greatly dreads.