Duval ready to channel kids’ drive to debate

Sure, it’s a semantic difference, but that’s part of the art.

What’s considered an argument in the hallway can be a debate in a school auditorium one Saturday a month.

Seven Jacksonville middle schools are trying to channel students’ competitive drive with the launch of the Duval Urban Debate League this fall.

“Kids are going to argue anyway, so we’re trying to structure it,” said Lawrence Dennis, the district’s cluster chief in charge of middle schools.

“All of the schools feed into either Andrew Jackson, Raines or Ribault high schools – all three of which on the list of schools that need to be turned around or face a threat of closure from the state,” Dennis said.

“School officials are hoping the debate league will be one piece in strengthening the feeder pattern and boosting the high schools,” he said.

“The push is to get seventh- and eighth-graders involved and expand the program into the high schools next year so students can stay on the debate track,” said Jermyn Shannon El, league developer and co-founder of the Blacksonville Community Network, one of the league’s main sponsors.

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