BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo’s
Department of Learning and Instruction in the Graduate School of
Education will host the year’s second on-campus debate for
Buffalo Public Schools students from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Friday,
Dec. 14, on UB’s North Campus.
The student debates – called the Buffalo Public Schools
Interscholastic Debates – again focus on what has become a
controversial subject in the community, whether fracking should be
allowed in the U.S.
Student debate teams from four city high schools will spar with
each other on the fracking issue, with students taking the opposite
point of view they argued during a previous high school debate held
at UB in November. The latest debates will take place in 553 and
555 Baldy Hall under the guidance of UB’s Graduate School of
Judges for the debates have been recruited from the ranks of
UB’s graduate students in social studies education for the
past three years. “Hosting the BPS Debates at UB has been a
great opportunity for our teacher-education students at UB to get
involved and learn about the debates,” says Alexandra Dimick,
visiting assistant professor in the Department of Learning and
Instruction. “It's also a great experience for Buffalo
Public high school students to come to campus and engage in a
The students on the four teams, which consist of three members
and an alternate, learn significant skills in both preparing for
the debates and debating – including researching topics,
comparing the validity of sources and listening to arguments.
The topic selected under debate was deliberately chosen for its
controversial nature, according to Sarah A. Robert, assistant
professor and social studies education program coordinator.
“Debates always focus on hot topics,” she said.
“Fracking is a burning issue for public and public officials,
especially in Western New York.”
The debates serve both high school students and the
teachers-in-training enrolled in UB’s Learning and
Instruction program, according to UB educators.
“UB social studies graduate students get a chance to help
high school students grow as democratic citizens,” says
Robert. “They learn how to explore an issue, take a stand and
support it or learn about political candidates and be an informed
The high school students are encouraged to present and conduct
themselves in a professional, well-prepared manner, and still have
fun in a relaxed atmosphere.
The goal is to create citizens who know how to participate in a
democracy, the UB educators said.
“Debate participation creates smart, thinking people who
make good citizens,” says Robert. “The high schools
students also develop the hands-on skills required to be lawyers or
At the same time, the UB graduate students becoming teachers get
an opportunity to receive experience in their professional
preparation not constrained by standardized testing and official
“Our social studies students walk away from this and other
hands-on experiences with local school districts knowing they can
do so much more as a teacher,” said Robert. “UB social
studies students love this activity because it is real. All the
research and theory that we read is captured in this fun and lively
Judging is an opportunity for UB students to meet teachers and
administrators, build their resumes, and help high school students
learn critical thinking and communication skills that empower them
to speak for themselves.