Mr. Naylor’s CHS debate class is a highly sought after English class for students in their senior year of high school.
In usual years, students in this class, which is offered for credit by the University of Pittsburgh, cap off the year when they are recorded while they debate topics in front of the school. Through these debates a student from Bellwood is chosen to debate in Pittsburgh in May. However, for the second year in a row, the public forum debates in Pittsburgh have been canceled due to COVID-19.
This news is very disappointing, but it is not a shocking announcement.
“We had a strong indication this would be the case, but it was officially confirmed last week,” Mr. Naylor said. “I feel bad for the students because the trip to Pittsburgh at the end of the year is great for the students in the class. It allows the kids to see other arguers and arguing styles and it helps them to put into perspective all they have learned throughout the year. Beyond that, it’s just a fun bonding experience for seniors as they wind down their last month of high school.”
Despite the inevitable decision of these debates being canceled, teachers are still required to record and submit student debates; however, no audience is required. Bellwood, along with many schools across the country, is learning virtually, so what does this mean as Bellwood only has a tentative date to come back to school?
“Unless we are out for the rest of the year, which is not something any of us expect, we are going to find a way to hold the debates in front of a live audience,” said Mr. Naylor. “It might not be the large crowd we normally get in a regular year, when teachers shuffle their classes in and out all morning, but one way or another we’ll bring people in. Safety is always the most important concern, so it may well be we can only invite one or two other classes in order to keep students reasonably distanced. School-wide debates in front of the student body have been going on for almost a decade now, and bringing them to all students has really been an effective recruiting tool for the class, so I don’t want to let it go without working to find a solution.”
A few good things have come from the cancellation of the forum, one being that the date that the recorded debates need to be turned into the University of Pittsburgh has been pushed back until May, which gives more of a possibility that Bellwood students will be in school again. Another is that the debate format is up to the teachers.
As of now, the hope is that the 2022 Forum will take place in Pittsburgh like usual. Until then, all CHS debate teachers can do is to continue what they have been doing, by putting the education of proper debate first.