Students at McPherson High School begin participated in one of the largest Big Questions debate events in the country Nov. 23. The debate format asked students to argue both sides of the topic: objective morality exists. Big Questions debate, started in 2016, is made possible thanks to a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
McPherson High School’s event, which began on Friday and will continue on Monday and Tuesday, gives students the opportunity to debate through classroom education instead of an extracurricular tournament.
“I love Big Questions as a debate format for my students,” said Jerrad Willis, an English teacher at McPherson High School who coordinates the event. “The simplistic approach to the topic area allows me to teach argumentation and debate with minimal jargon, but the depth of the question allows my students who want to dig deep to find a lot of success in the topic. The universality of the format allows my students to approach debate in their own terms. I can explain the topic without hours of background information and lecturing because my students already have opinions and experiences in the topic area. Finally, Big Questions dispels a lot of the intimidation that debate can carry and puts the power of debate into all of my student’s hands.”
At a time when productive and informed discourse is needed, Big Questions is teaching a generation of students that dialogue, listening, and learning is important. From science to religion, philosophy to technology, Big Questions Debate helps students develop research skills, public speaking skills, and the strategies to develop opinions and arguments on questions previously seen as too controversial for secondary schools.