Students to debate charters, criminal justice

Bay Area Urban Debate League
High school debater Kwodwo Moore (center). Photo by Ray Chavez/Staff

On Thursday, after you come to the Tribune’s public forum on high school reform and teaching in Oakland, you’ll still have plenty of time to head across town to a different — and decidedly younger — discussion about education and teenagers.

Charter schools and criminal justice are the subjects of debate at the 6-7:30 p.m. Bay Area Urban Debate League event at the St. Augustine Episcopal Church (not to be confused with the Catholic church on Alcatraz) on 29th Street and Telegraph.

Dmitri Seals, the league’s director, says his hard-working orators have been practicing three times a week for this moment, and that “they are ready to electrify the crowd.”

Admission to the debate, titled “Waiting for Superman,” is free. You can RSVP on Facebook or to dseals@baudl.org.

Here are the big questions the debaters will tackle:

  • Are charter schools the future of public education in America, or do they do more harm than good for our children?
  • Should young people convicted of crimes be thrown in jail, or rehabilitated in community programs next to our homes?

The invitation says:

We invite you to join us in a celebration of the dedication of these young people, and in a discussion of solutions to the issues they bring to the table. If you have seen “Waiting for Superman” or care about problems of youth and crime, you will want to see this – get ready for an exciting night!

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    If I were in town I’d go watch this… I am afraid that the students would be unable to argue the conservative side of these issues, being indoctrinated to the loony-leftist way of thinking. Should the debate actually feature conservative debaters it would be fun because usually the lefties are unable to behave themselves in the face of those not politically correct.

    In which the “debate” degenerates to name-calling and everybody leaves. Having a debate presupposes the two sides consider each other worth talking to in the first place. Modern Libs have a very hard time in conversation with Conservatives because they have been taught to consider them evil. The right wingers come to regard the Libs as stupid children, which can get in the way of polite conversation also.

    The makings of a fun night I think!

    Another real problem is evident in the debate at the Supreme Court on Obama’s Socialized medicine. Some of the most emotional people blabber about how important it is that “the children” or some other worthies be given free health care. To me the case before the court is not about whether that’s true. The only issue before the court is whether the Federal Government (as opposed to the State Governments which have far more power) have constitutional authority to impose this Socialist Scheme from Washington on the States.

    Obama is making the laughable argument that this is part of the Commerce Clause. That should fail. The legislation must be struck down. The mob just doesn’t seem to get it how Federal and State powers work, and more importantly why (to preserve the nation). That’s 8th grade civics.

    Likewise debating Law often turns on procedural flows, and power flows. Ignore them at your peril. You don’t win a legal argument because you are blonde or because people like you, or because you are black and people like you no matter how screwed up you are. The minute the chillun are taught to expect victory because of good intentions or political popularity they are being set up for failure. In law school my instructors often intentionally made the victors of any legal contest loathsome – to reinforce that point. There are not supposed to be consolation prizes for parties who screw up their cases. The law is often winner take all. Some people never seemed to learn that one.

    Back to the thread. I already see the issues in the language being used here – the “dedication” of these young people. That sounds like code words for Liberals who pervert the law to reach pre-determined ends. Rather than speaking of skill and learning of precedent and rules, we are really praising “dedication’ to pervert justice to rig cases for the politically powerful and favored.

    I never see the word “dedication” being used to praise anyone for following rules and precedents.

    When the law is meaningless and the politically favored take what they want there will be violence, cheating and business taken offshore. You will see “dedication” applied to threatening witnesses, paying off the legislature, the executive branch (Clinton’s pardons..), and corrupting the locals. And it takes a lot of money to pay off the locals, they are very greedy. And don’t think vote counting in SF is any more sacred than Math and Verbal Scores in DC.

    So that’s my 2 cents to this debate. I wish I could attend.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    I may have misinterpreted the event as a legal debate. On second thought it’s a legislative debate.

    Right now the CA law is clear that the purpose for the criminal justice system is punishment not rehabilitation. I believe that may have come from the people in an Constitutional initiative, not the legislature (which is owned and operated by the Democratic Party which is not into punishment of criminals). The Punishment thing is settled now and I don’t believe the legislature has any further say. even the 3 strike system is enshrined in the CA Constitution by a voter initiative so the Democrats can’t stop it (it’s called “mandatory”). As far as the Charters, I believe they have the right to exist. So do the private schools.

    In a Socialist State such as the old Soviet Union the government can simply command the people to do whatever the government wishes. No Freedom.

    So what do we want the kids to debate? What’s to happen in the existing Constitutional Law – or what glorious Socialist Dream World we can create if we can ban non-government schools, and re-educate people to live their lives according to the state wishes.

    People are criminals because it gives them pleasure and treasure. There is no such thing as “educating” an Anti-Social to stop raping, robbing, or whatever they want. Singapore and Malaysia and other such countries are in the forefront in managing a racially diverse population so they don’t steal, rape and spray paint parked cars. We need to emulate them.

    But if children want to debate public policy and write themselves a new State & Federal Constitution, it will be fun to hear them do it.

  • Z Norris

    You begin by deploring debate as an impossible task because the “loony-left” will resort to name calling. In the very next paragraph, you decry the Affordable Care Act as “Socialist” and continue to characterize the administration’s arguments as “laughable.” There is absolutely no substance to your claims. To begin with, if you consider a huge hand-out to private insurance companies as a “Socialist” policy, you severely misunderstand the nature of socialism. Further, to characterize an argument that the insurance mandate is justified by the Commerce Clause, when the medical market constitutes 1/6 of the U.S. GDP and is undoubtably insterstate in nature, as “laughable” is itself disingenuous. It is best characterized as “arguably constitutional,” the administration’s position is debatable, and indeed the U.S. Courts of Appeals have reached a split on that very question. Laughable? Reasonable minds can disagree, but no reasonable person would characterize it as laughable.
    More importantly, and more on topic, where in the California Constitution is it required that the criminal justice system is punative in nature? My understanding, as an attorney and law professor, is that the criminal justice system seeks to balance three non-exclusive policy concerns, in no particular order: (1) rehabilitation, (2) punishment, and (3) avoidance. I am not aware of a Constitional mandate that policy be exclusively punative in nature, and none exists. As for charter schools, the debate there is not one about socialism, and does not even implicate socialism unless an individual has a deranged and neurotic fear of socialism. The issue with charter schools is that they are publically funded. This debate is not about whether private schools should be allowed to exist or abolished altogether, that debate would implicate socialism. This debate is about whether public funds should be given to private entities to form charter schools. The debate will likely center around whether charter schools can improve publically-available primary and secondary education, or whether they merely siphon money from the traditional public schools.
    I do wish we could have more civilized debates without name calling, but unfortunately it seems those who do not fully understand the issues will resort to sound-bites (i.e. “Socialized medicine”), name calling (i.e. “loony-left”) and fear mongering (i.e. “socialism” and “re-education”).

  • Cranky Teacher

    LOL at Nextset attacking the “loony-left” for name-calling!

    That’s rich.

    Not so humorous is his usual mocking of the voice of young people, and pre-judging of their intentions and intellect.

  • Nextset

    I can accurately appraise their intellect.

    Now lets get down to using it.

    A debate is not a group wishing expedition. You argue policy within realistic restraints. To the extent we are talking about what is to be done in the USA by the federal and state legislatures we have to at least pretend to stay within the limits of the Constitution of the USA and of CA.

    So an open ended “King for a day” debate is Kiddy Talk. Is this what is being contemplated here in this exercise or is there some structure in place?

    My beef is that I see the black kids from these schools experienced in nothing but Kiddy Talk. “Restorative Justice” is one of the nonsensical terms used to describe people taking whatever they want from other people who are expected to quietly hand it over. Guess what – It’s not working for all the Trevons…

    Life is not like that in CA or in the USA.

    Yes, Socialism is currently being taught in CA State secondary schools and universities. I think Capitalism and Entrepreneurship is far preferable and some people come out ready to deal – the black kids don’t. It’s wrong to aggressively promote certain people as roadkill.

    Debate is good. But real debate in real world terms not chimp out exercises. Any attempt to have these children debate or discuss crime and punishment must begin with reminders that the people have spoken about 3 strikes, mandatory sentencing, the death penalty, Megan’s List and the other CA ballot measures and Constitutional measures. The courts and law enforcement are required to obey. You can advocate (yet) another ballot measure but other than that, the law is written.

    School is not FantasyLand.

  • Nextset

    For the Law Professor: here are the General Objectives of CA Sentencing from the CA Rules Of Court


    “Rehabilitation” is not listed. At Item # 3 “encouraging” defendant to knock it off is mentioned in the same phrase as “…deterring him or her from future offenses”.

    We in the courts are not in the business of retraining or re-educating cons despite dabbling in court ordered shoplifter school, DUI school, bad check school, woman beater school, mental health court, drug court, and all the other rehab functions which are offered as herbs and spices for diversion or as add-ons to a criminal sentence. The purpose of sentencing if you actually get there, is punishment.

  • del

    It is a shame that you spent so much time tyoing before you read what “debate,” as used above, is.
    It is not grandstanding or chest beating, it is an actual judged competition between two teams of students who’s viewpoint on an issue is selected at random right before the event.
    It is exactly the type of educational opportunity you would really support, Nextset. I’ve seen it do wonderful things for kids who were bright but lacked structure to expressing their thoughts. I’ve seen it teach students to keep their emotions in check as they argued against their own strongly held beliefs. I’ve seen kids staggering around with books about other nations despite the fact the students themselves had never been further than BART.
    In the future, please take 30 seconds to click the link Ms. Murphy supplies before deriding an event. Debate teaches these children to do their research before starting to argue, but it is a good practice for all of us!

  • Nextset

    Del: Gotca.

    Now what exactly are the parameters of this debate??

  • Nextset

    Gotcha. iPhone not best typewriter.

  • Alice Spearman

    I had the pleasure to be one of the invited judges at the forum last evening. This is not the first time I have attended one of the debates. These students were well prepared, very enthusiastice,and very convincing with their presentations and very convincing on both points. I applaud the students who participated and all the staff who utilizes their time to work with the many students across the bay area participating with the Bay Area Debate League. I also encourage evryone to help continue this league and donate whatever they can to help continue this very needed program.