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2018 Session Two - Day One

We were excited to begin the second session of the Lexington Debate Institute today! Manu Gunnala and I are instructing in one of the classes, and Lara Bursal and Elias Benghiat are instructing in the other class. We have excellent help from lab assistants Evan Li, Christine Wang, Bill Wu and Megha Prasad!

We opened the day with some get-to-know-you activities, and then taught the basic components of argumentation. We covered the claim, warrant, and impact of different arguments, and delved further into argumentative chains, mapping out more complex arguments.

Next, we explained the concept of flowing to students. Flowing is the form of note-taking we use for debate; because it's not realistic to capture every word in an impromptu speech, we have to practice developing our own shorthand and techniques to try to get on paper our opponent's core argument and as much nuance as possible. We practiced flowing by listening to different songs, and explained through these songs that familiarity with certain songs (or in the world of debate, certain arguments and pieces of evidence) can make it easier to flow - because even if you can't catch every word, you know what the argument is that your opponent is planning to make.

After flowing, we took our lunch break. We were able to eat outside in the Quad area of the high school, and students who were interested played with a Frisbee disc. We'll have other activities/equipment tomorrow for students who would like to expand their options!

When we came back inside, we discussed the importance of persuasion, and listened to different famous speeches (from both movies and real life) to give context for the three pillars: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is an appeal to credibility, while pathos is an appeal to emotion, and logos is an appeal to reason. Though it may seem at first that debate is logos-centric, judges subconsciously vote based on displays of ethos and pathos all the time - and helping students build the skills to utilize these persuasion techniques sets them ahead of opponents who haven't had such instruction.

After our persuasion discussion and persuasion-related activities, we moved on to a conversation about cross-examination - in debate, better known as cross-ex - which is the portion of a debate where opponents can ask each other questions and directly engage. We played a game called cross-ex circle, where a student picked a lie to defend and other students asked pointed questions in an attempt to prove the lie false.

Finally, we ended the day with mini-debates, where students put the skills of argument structure, persuasion, flowing, and cross-examination together in shortened debates! We're excited to return tomorrow, where students will hone in on argument structure and comparing arguments through cost-benefit analysis and impact calculus!

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