What's Race Got to Do with It?
Structured Debate

This activity asks participants to consider a controversial issue from someone else’s point of view. Ideally, this activity should be conducted over several sessions, to allow participants to research and develop informed arguments. Alternatively, hand out “prep” sheets summarizing the main arguments for either side.

>>There are many variations on the structured debate format – some are highly formal, involving advocates for and against a position and a separate arbiter or decision maker (typified in the mock trial format); others require participants to change roles and/or build a consensus.

Below are several examples of structured debate lesson plans taken from the Web. These can be adapted to different topics and session lengths, and the debates can take place in small groups as well as in a large group with many participants or select participants and observers.

Racial Profiling Debate
This method requires participants to argue a position, then switch. (Note: a shorter, effective variation is to ask students to prepare ahead of time for a particular position but then when the time comes to actually debate the issue, have each group argue the opposite point of view.)

Residential Segregation Mock Tribunal
This example, taken from the RACE – The Power of an Illusion Web site, describes a mock tribunal on residential segregation. Although the lesson is meant to be conducted over several class sessions, a shorter variation is to use the sample arguments as prep sheets and adapt them to the method(s) described in the example above.

This format is suitable for any public issue that has strong proponents and opponents.

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