Senior students in Ms. Maria Clara Rekow’s Advanced Spanish Seminar class, Seminario, put their 6.5 years of dedicated Spanish language and Latin American culture studies to action through lively debate.
The Seminario class combines Latin American current events, international relations, human rights, and socio-cultural movements. Students in the class explore Latin American culture; develop and implement community projects; and develop skills in debate, negotiation, conflict resolution, and public speaking.
"Should Argentina impose veganism in its country?” and "Are forest fires advisable for agricultural production?” were two examples of the questions students considered. Seminario students were first asked to choose a side, either in favor of or against the issue. Depending on the side, they then had to choose a position or role that they wanted to portray in the debate. Once this factor was decided, they dove into research and thoroughly explored the controversial subject in Spanish. A few of the resources utilized in their research included academic papers, newspapers, and credible websites. After thoroughly researching the topic, students then prepared a paper detailing their position using the AREI method which includes four components: affirmation, reason, evidence, and impact. Throughout this process, students worked collaboratively with their group peers to coordinate details, anticipate outcomes, practice potential rebuttals, and consider possible questions. The final steps in preparing for the debate included submitting their position paper for suggestions and reading it aloud for intonation and fluency.
The significance of this exercise was not lost on students. “With this debate, I was able to connect the ideas we learned with skills that we had to gather ourselves,” said Shena ‘20. “It was an opportunity to express our thoughts in a way other than an essay.”
Max ‘20 echoed this sentiment, “Having a debate in another language provides a deeper level of understanding than a lesson or test could.”
Ms. Rekow explained, “Debates are an essential part of Seminario because they help develop and practice many integral skills.” These skills include public speaking, academic research, group collaboration, formal writing, conflict resolution, debate techniques, formulation of questions and rebuttals, supporting ideas with evidence, and the ability to step into others’ shoes to better understand where their ideas come from.
“There are many perspectives and aspects to a big decision,” Jose ‘20 commented. “It takes a lot longer than I thought to dissect and discuss a topic in its entirety.”
Neil ‘20 said, “It is frustrating to argue a side that you don’t support,” but also acknowledged the importance of understanding other people’s viewpoints.
Ms. Rekow believes that through this exercise, “Students learn to develop techniques that allow them to conduct civil discourse.” She added, “ As our Academic Mission states, the students develop inquiry techniques and intellectual curiosity that will help them become aware and act upon what is going on in the world.”
“I learned a lot about the process by which people in power are able to strong-arm others into making decisions and can alter what is understood to be the truth,” Helen ‘20 disclosed.
These debates certainly challenged students and challenged education.