Students Learn Life Skills Through Debate

Taped on the campus of NJIT, Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Jonathan Alston, debate teacher and coach from Science Park High School in Newark, to talk about the life skills students learn through debate.

9/26/17 #2078






"We are thrilled to be joined by Mr. Jonathan Alston, Debate Teacher and Debate Coach, Science Park High School in the great Brick City, Newark, New Jersey. Good to see you. I'm glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me. We're here at NJIT in the heart of Newark, New Jersey. This is part of our contribution to the Classroom Close-up series produced by our partners and friends at the New Jersey Education Association. We're about to see a clip in a minute... Great. ...from Classroom Close-up. Talk to us about the work that you're doing at Science Park High School. Well, I'm honored to have probably the best teaching job in the country. I get to teach debate to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Wow. And I also coach them, 9th through 12th as well. So the debate team at Science Park High School has been going on for about 37 years. A great reputation? Yes. Started in 1980 by someone named Brent Farrand, phenomenal coach. A phenomenal person. He's an icon? Yes. And he built up the debate programs not just at Science, but throughout the entire city. So I get a lot of support in the stuff that I do throughout the district. How about we check out a clip from Classroom Close-up? Sure. To tell us a little bit more about the story. Let's go to the clip. [music playing] And the debaters, let me know when you're ready. Go! Body cameras will definitely help our community. They reduce police complaints, and make police behavior better, as well as make people feel safe and secure. In conclusion, this is why body cameras should be worn. Thank you. Most kids want a voice. They want what they are saying to be heard. And debate provides a space where students can speak and no one else can speak. I think that that sense of personal power really does give confidence, it gives a sense of ownership of one's intellect. And that happens whether someone wins or not. So the person you're framing, you said that it makes the community safe, is that correct? Yes. The debate program at Science Park was started over 35 years ago by math teacher Brent Farrand. At the time, some were skeptical that the inner city school in Newark would be able to compete at a high level. When he first founded the team, he was told that we didn't want to debate kids from the suburbs, because they didn't want us to get our feelings hurt. He was told that by an administrative superior. He laughed. And he said that our kids' feelings aren't the ones you have to worry about. Today, Science Park's debate program is..."