Debaters argue education reform

Dr. David Claborn, professor poltical science, and CHG President Matthew Van Dyke listen to the opposing side at the debate on education reform. Photo by Ethan Barse.

By Jenny White

Previous debates have showcased hot topics in politics but this year the Capitol Hill Gang’s (CHG) fall debate focused on an issue that is often overlooked: education reform.

Seven questions were presented to the two opposing sides followed by a short question-and-answer session involving the audience.

One side advocated the federal government’s moderation and funding of all education, while the other proposed that states, communities, the private sector and parents should be in control of decisions regarding the education of school-age children.

Both sides agreed the current education system in the United States is not thriving.

Some of the topics included the effectiveness of public schools and charter schools, tracking systems and the legitimacy of parents in choosing a child’s education.

The federal side based their arguments on statistics and one debater claimed the community side was dealing too much in social theory without statistical evidence.

A prominent theory presented by the community side was that the federal government cannot understand the individual needs of schools in various states.

The community side argued national testing standards are not an effective way to measure individual progress since each state educates differently. The federal side claimed parents and local communities are not as qualified as government officials to make decisions.

Dr. Brian Woodworth, professor of criminal justice, debated for the federal side, giving an anecdote about community-driven schools and the problem they present to students who want to pursue professional careers.

“In a town I once lived in, the school taught boys to be farmers and girls to have babies. Those kids are going to have trouble if they ever wish to enter the professional world,” he said.

The community side claimed parents and local teachers should be responsible for making choices in a student’s education.

“Regardless of whether a parent is qualified, it is still their right to make choices about their own child’s education. This is not the government’s decision,” said debater and CHG President Matt Van Dyke.

Audience members supported this statement with approving shouts and clapping.

By the end of the debate neither side proposed a plan for a new educational policy.

Although the crowd was smaller compared to previous debate attendance, Van Dyke believed the event was still a success.

“I’d say the debate was a great presentation of a political issue that is often swept under the rug,” he said. “For sure, the topic choice meant a smaller crowd, however, since this was the first debate for a new club administration, I would say it went well.”

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