Introducing Curriculum Corner—By Marshall

Hey debate world! The Curriculum Staff at VBI is starting a new series of posts here on VBriefly dedicated to discussing debate curriculum. The hope is to use this space, partially, to promulgate information about our camp curriculum, but also to prompt discussion and provide resources for the broader debate world about debate instruction.

We intend to post lots of different types of articles in this series. We are currently planning a piece that introduces the new curricular components we are rolling out at VBI this summer. Yet, in a very different vein, I am also working on a piece about why we should take seriously Plato’s warning to not teach youth how to argue. And neither curricular revelations, nor Marshall’s theft from wiser minds, exhausts our plans for this series.

We will post links to articles/studies that we have found helpful in our own thinking about camp curriculum, perhaps providing occasional commentary to show what role the articles play in shaping our own thoughts.  We plan to post interviews with various instructors on debate drills and teaching techniques. We will post thoughts from debaters and coaches on how to make the most out of your time at debate camp, and even content on how parents can help their kids thrive. We may host a vote to determine, once and for all, the best opening, in-lab, ice-breaker questions.

Thus, this series will include posts about: academic articles, curricular components, debate drills, instructor interviews, parental promoting, surviving the summer, and words of wisdom; all with some marvelous miscellany thrown in. The thing that will unite it all together is its focus on a single, simple question: how can we better teach debate?

If you have thoughts on issues related to that question that you would like us to bring up or discuss, please let us know in the comment section (indeed, if you can find a nice alliterative title, it will be difficult for me to resist adopting it as a regular feature).

This does, however, leave us with one final question. Why?

This series is motivated by two things. First is the recognition that teaching is difficult. And as hard as teaching is, teaching well is that much harder. There is room for every teacher involved in debate to better learn to teach well. This is true whether we are instructing for a camp, coaching for a school, captaining for a team, or just helping teach a friend. Second is the recognition that those students who decide to give up their summers to learn debate at VBI, and those parents who send off their kids to camp for weeks on end, deserve to understand the curricular thoughts that shape what and how it is that students at VBI learn. Thus, this series is also a way for you to learn and think about how we think and teach.