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Erie County DA's office hosts student debate at courthouse

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Fri, May 3rd 2019 08:20 pm

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office hosted dozens of Buffalo Public School students, teachers and coaches for a series of debates at Erie County Court in downtown Buffalo.

The debates, held in various courtrooms, were the last competitions in the existing Buffalo Public Schools interscholastic debate program. The DA’s office became involved with the anticipation of a forthcoming debate program with Say Yes Buffalo, which expands the program to include Buffalo Community Schools in fall 2019.

Twelve Buffalo high schools recruited five to six students per team who worked with their coaches to develop their debate skills throughout the 2018-19 school year. Today, the teams debated the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticide use and biofuels. Each debate lasted approximately 90 minutes.

By participating in a debate, students are challenged to make defensible judgements by investigating complex issues, questioning their assumptions, evaluating data, considering alternative perspectives on an issue, and learning how to effectively argue their stance on a particular issue with their peers. Debates have been shown to improve analytical and speaking skills among students, and contribute to their intellectual and ethical development.

“Through coaching and debate participation, students learn how to explore a topic and defend their side of the issue, which allows them to not only develop academically (but) hopefully become better informed citizens,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said. “Many of the attorneys who work in my office participated in debates and mock trails before deciding to pursue a law degree, because the coaching teaches you how to effectively argue a position. I am proud to support this program.”

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