“Yeah, but don’t you think all the money these companies make might be an incentive for them to do it?” Quite a shot across the bow, I thought. Ensuing was a pretty impressive debate between two sixth graders about the appropriateness of animal testing for product safety. Lorelei had just fired off a powerful and provocative question here. Her partner, Samantha, smirked and looked down at her laptop. “It says right here…” continued Lorelei, citing evidence of millions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry shells out for animal testing.
Redirecting the conversation, Samantha asserted, “Okay, but remember, they’re animals. They’re mice. And there are millions of mice in the world! We are people, and this testing helps keep us safe.” Whoa, good point, I thought.
This was just the beginning of a more independent bend of argument writing work, but already these writers were beginning to form some solid ideas around which they might organize some powerful writing. How were they doing that? Debate.
Debate is just so fun, so engaging. Middle school kids probably do it all the time at home– why wouldn’t they love to do it school? I was witnessing real engagement here, and it was awesome.
After a few minutes, the girls’ conversation quieted. I jumped in. “So,” I began, “who are you thinking you’ll send this writing to?” Both girls looked at me like I had just sprouted two heads. “You know,” I continued, “who will be your audience?”
“Well,” stammered Lorelei, “I guess the pharmaceutical companies. But I wasn’t planning on writing for them.”
“What if you did?” I quizzed. “How would that affect your writing, do you think?”
“Oh, well, that would kind of make it harder, I would think,” she mused. “Probably better, though.”
Yes, probably better.