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Everyday Debate & Discussion: A Guide to Socratic Conversation, Informal Discussion, and Formal Debate Review by Christy Schaefer

Shelly Johnson, PhD
Classical Academic Press
2151 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011

Learning the precepts of debate is not reserved for the Classical education model or for the students in formal debate clubs. Knowing how to develop a debater's mind, meaning to think more critically, see others' viewpoints, and detect the error in any argument, is a valuable tool for everyone. Classical Academic Press provides the means to guide students through this process of developing a debater's mind with their Everyday Debate & Discussion book set.

Debate is not only the formal, researched, team effort that we imagine when remembering the debate club in school. Knowing how to state your position during informal discussions is a necessary skill for nearly all people. Although Classical Academic Press is well known for their products to assist in educating using the Classical model, this particular teacher and student set for Everyday Debate & Discussion will suit the needs of most educators.

The student and teacher books are nearly identical in their content with both books containing the entire lesson text and chapter questions. While the student book provides spaces for writing most answers, the teacher's edition has those answers completed. Still the student book is not really of the workbook style, and could easily be reused if the questions were answered in a notebook. The teacher's guide does also have extra information in each chapter to explain and expand on the material covered, as well as essays on setting up a dialectic classroom. With this set, the teacher will not need a copy of the student book to know what the students are studying.

Every chapter of the book has specific types of exercises and assignments to enforce the concepts. The Review Exercises directly cover the material from the chapter. The Everyday Debate section encourages the students to practice forming arguments and debating. A Learning from the Master section gives the student a chance to learn from people experienced in the various aspects of debate by watching movies, speeches and debates and then discussing. Finally, the Building Copiousness section provides optional quotes for the students to memorize.

Everyday Debate & Discussion begins by defining debate, exploring the history of debate, and discussing the reason we study debate. Students then work through the process of learning to think like a debater by listening and asking questions while being civil and logical. Applying these lessons to informal debate in everyday life is the culmination of this section.

Next the book moves into understanding the structure of a formal debate and learning to research from external sources. The various facets of inductive logic are covered extensively before moving on to deductive logic, and the internal resources of ethos and pathos.  After the students have a good grasp on formal debating, style, humor and presentation methods are covered to round out the book.  In the end, you should have a group of well-prepared debaters, whether they are informally discussing topics or preparing for their first formal debate.

Everyday Debate & Discussion can be used as a single semester or a full year course for students in grades eight through twelve. Both the teacher's edition ($29.95) and the student book ($26.95) are reasonably priced for such a full course.

In our experience, the single semester pace is rather swift and best suited to older students with some background in debate. It is definitely easier to use the semester pace with a single student than with a class of mixed age children. However, the full year pace is very approachable for a class of students with varying abilities, although I would tend to stick with the recommended age level or all high school age students. Still, this set has been a fantastic introduction to debate for our eager group of debaters.

-Product review by Christy Schaefer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016