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Forensics and dead kittens (standard:non fiction, 1432 words)
Author: EutychusAdded: Jun 08 2004Views/Reads: 2669/1373Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A discussion my son and I had this past year when they were studying debating in language arts. Not an attempt to fuel debate, just an accounting of something that happened in our home that was memorable enough to put down on paper.

I began hearing about debating in an official sense about three months
into the eighth grade. My son came home one day and filled me in on 
what he thought had been a very interesting day in language arts. I 
made a point to take this development seriously because he rarely 
showed such an interest in anything that was associated with his native 
language. Math is more his thing. 

“So if it's debating, why does the teacher call it ‘forensics'?” I asked
in an attempt to learn just how thoroughly the subject was being 

“The ‘for' comes from ‘forum', which was a public gathering. I guess the
word could mean a public forum to sort through things in a legal trial 
or in a public debate.” 

“Good. So what did you debate about?” 

“She only gave us twenty minutes to research our topics, but I had to
argue why building the Alaska pipeline was a bad thing. And then we 
only had three minutes to make our point.” 

I smiled at the topic he had been given. That had been the first subject
I had gotten to argue when that particular debate had been a timely 
matter in the 1970s. “Don't worry. Later on, the teacher will give you 
something a little more current to debate. My first attempt at debating 
had been over why building the hydrogen bomb was necessary in the 

“She's given us a list of things we can debate later on,” he said and
handed me a list. 

“I guess global warming will be a hot topic until the next ice age kicks

“Ha ha, Dad, real funny,” he said without humor. 

“You caught that. I'm impressed. Stem cell research and cloning will be
appropriate for another twenty years or so, I'll bet. And abortion will 
always be on this list.” 

“I was thinking about doing that one. We hear about it a lot and there
are even a couple of girls in my grade that have had to make that 
decision already.” 

I thought about the five year old girls who had started soccer at the
same time Caleb had. It didn't seem long enough ago for any of them to 
be concerned with such a decision. 

“You do realize that you will have to prepare to argue either side of
the argument, don't you?” 

“Um... no. Why would you have to argue the position you don't agree

“The point of this kind of debating is to make the argument, not to
prove the point. I know, that sounds like it should be the same thing, 
but it isn't. And you won't know which side you'll be arguing until the 
teacher tells you, so you have to be ready for either.” 

About a month later, Caleb asked me to review his index cards prepared
for debating abortion sometime during the coming week. He had done a 
fair job on both sides though I felt obliged to point out that the 
fetus is not technically a part of the mother's body. 

“In the placenta, the mom's circulatory system comes along side that of
the baby's. Nutrients cross from one system to the other, so it is 
really two separate systems, not one. The baby is totally separate from 
the mom.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“As you may or may not have heard, your mom was pregnant once. I learned
a lot about how that particular process operates. But don't let that 
bit of info keep you from using the ‘it's my body and I should be able 
to control it' argument. It's classic and worth using.” 

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