Life is often described in terms of struggle, and for good reason—no matter who you are and what you believe, you will encounter obstacles to your peace and prosperity, and opposition to the ideas you hold most dear. Fortunately, there are ways to engage and counter opposing ideas that don't involve violence or disguises.
Many of these tactics are discussed in The Art of Value Debate: A Study in Understanding and Discussing Value. The subtitle is more descriptive of the contents than the main title: this isn't just about formal debate (though that's discussed), but about using the methods of successful and constructive debate a part of your everyday life.
How it Works:
Nine lessons range from learning to discern values in a variety of contexts (TV shows, politics, ideas, etc.), applying the study of philosophy, and communicating one's values formally and informally. There are two sample lesson plan templates in the back of the book, one for meeting as a class once a week and another for meeting three times a week.
High school students will need plenty of time on their own to complete homework assignments. Each lesson begins with a homework assignment that includes an Examine section with a reading assignment, an Evaluating section with questions to answer while reading the text, and an Expressing section where students apply what they've learned through original work.
Before each lesson is a page with learning objectives and an overview of the main content of the lesson. Students should read through this to orient themselves before reading the main lesson. Lessons can be read by the students or together as a classroom out loud, answering questions as they go along.
In the back is a teacher's guide, with the sample lesson plans, some notes, and student activities and worksheets for each lesson in the text. It's virtually impossible to implement this course with a single child. They could benefit from the information, but they wouldn't be able to do many of the assignments, including staging an actual debate or discussion.
The text is explicitly Christian without being preachy or overdone. Author Matt Pitchford (himself an accomplished student debater) is concerned with training young Christians able to defend their beliefs in a variety of public and private spheres, but he does so without emphasizing (or even revealing) his own particular beliefs.
One of the central focuses ofThe Art of Value Debate is the ability for students to understand and interact with philosophical ideas of all kinds. Lesson 3 is devoted to outlining the history of philosophy in order to orient students; the outline is severely truncated, but it hits the salient points of several thinkers's systems and opens routes for futher study.
A "Student's Toolbox" offers example flow sheets and cases, a list of important values, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography. The course culminates with a formal values debate, and a lesson helping students understand how to apply what they've learned at home, work, school, and everywhere else they go.
Pitchford's The Art of Value Debate is a sequel to Grace Lichlyter's The Art of Practical Debate, and shouldn't be completed until Lichlyter's course has been successfully finished as Pitchford makes reference to many concepts from the earlier book. Students who've had some debate training can move straight to Pitchford's book, but this isn't ideal.
Our Honest Opinion
There aren't many courses like this, despite the fact that understanding, identifying, and expressing values is arguably the most important thing Christians can do, particularly in the context of sharing the Gospel. This course is designed to give students the tools and confidence they need to dialogue effectively and articulately.
Many of the books in this series have a lot of good content, but the writing is stilted or immature. Pitchford's book doesn't suffer from those weaknesses, but clearly and effectively communicates the necessity of, and methods for, engaging in values-oriented debates and conversations from a Christian perspective. Highly recommended.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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