The room full of middle school students was silent as two pairs of students, from Gentry Middle School and Pilot Mountain Middle School, debated a topic of importance to everyone in the room, and students across the country: Should homework be banned in schools?
The pairs of students were finalists in the Surry County Schools middle school debate event, who based their arguments on research compiled prior to debate. Pilot Mountain Middle School eighth-grade students Timothy Gosnell and Tyler Chilton argued that homework should not be banned in schools. Gentry Middle School eighth-grade students Luke Holder and Ben Large argued that homework should be banned.
Holder and Large brought up several points, such as how 22 percent of students fall asleep during homework time, according to a national sleep study.
Gosnell and Chilton said that homework was an “essential part of education that encourages students to work more independently.”
“Students become more confident in using new knowledge and skills when they do homework,” Gosnell said.
Large said that students should have more time to relax at home, since school is already about six hours long, followed by Gosnell’s point that homework encourages future independence, especially if students choose to move on to higher education.
“Practice makes perfect; do it more, learn it more,” Gosnell said.
Three local attorneys served as the judges for the final pairs debate: Patrick Casstevens, Steve Royster, and Quentin Harris. Maggie Wilson, a student at Meadowview Middle School, served as the official timekeeper.
In the end, the judges named Timothy Gosnell and Tyler Chilton as the winners of the pairs debate.
First place in the congress debate went to Ashton Lawson of Meadowview Middle. Runner-up went to Ed Cano of Central Middle.
The winner of the singles debate was John Hicks of Central Middle. Runner-up went to Hope Gentry of Meadowview Middle.
Gavels and medals were awarded to the winners by Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves, Board Chairman Earlie Coe, and board member Sue Stone.
Dr. Travis Reeves told the students that they were “taking away a skill that is very valuable, currently and beyond” since students were learning and practicing skills they can use throughout their life.
“In life, we all have to debate. We have to stand up for what we believe in and eloquently state our beliefs…this is the type of academic competition we want to continue to provide. We believe this is what makes you globally competitive, which helps you to obtain a job, get into the college of your first choice, and have interview skills so you can get that job you have always wanted, and hopefully return to Surry County to make a difference in our community.”
Middle school students competed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Surry Community College in three debate events — singles, pair, and congress debates.
The pairs debate consisted of the pairs of students alternating speeches for their side, either for or against the topic. Students had to make persuasive and logical arguments in a way that was accessible to a wide variety of audience.
The singles debate centered on the topic “Middle schools should be in session year round.” Singles debate asked students to explore arguments about abstract concepts, standards of behavior, and competing visions of what kind of world we should strive to create, according to Hiatt.
Congressional debate, also known as legislative debate or student congress, involved students debating bills and resolutions. Students had to submit mock legislation prior to the event, which was compiled and distributed to each debating team. The teams researched topics, with the ultimate goal of speaking on both sides. Groups of students formed congressional committees and decided which legislation to debate through a series of speeches, followed by a vote on the bill after the chamber decided the time had elapsed.
Debate Coordinator Charlotte Hiatt said participation had doubled this year, which led to the partnership with Surry Community College, which allowed the county schools to use 20 classrooms and an auditorium. She estimated between 25 and 30 judges volunteered for the event.
Students who placed out and did not advance in the tournament went to high school student debate team workshops, where they were mentored on technique as well as watching and evaluating others. They also had the chance to watch high school teams debate from Surry Early College and Surry Central.
Any students who are interested in participating in debate should contact their school’s principal.
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.