Many schools focus on subjects like math, reading and writing. At Acton Academy, we expand this list to include Socratic debate, public speaking and using video and other web based forms of communication.
But these are still just tools and skills. Our goal is to equip our Eagles to make decisions and persuade others, so they can change the world.
We launched the day by watching some of our previous class debates on Lucy, our new filming system that allows Eagles to critique their Socratic comments. Watching yourself on film is difficult, but there’s no faster way to improve the crispness and impact of your words.
We continued this theme later in the day with a Socratic discussion on rhetoric – working on persuasion while we practiced it in real time, debating a better system for class clean up at the end of the day.
Eagles explored how using the past tense in a discussion invites blame (“You should have…”) and the present tense suggests standing on principle (“We need to ____ because it’s the only fair thing to do.”) Using the past and present tense tends only to make others defensive or to puff up your own ego.
So we experimented with using the future tense – and offering questions to frame choices – as a way to move others to action. Even after only a few rounds of practice, our Eagles quickly realized the power of being able to frame the debate.
Some important lessons, in the words of our Eagles:
- Your goal in a debate is to move others to action; not simply to win an argument.
- Questions are more powerful than statements; and
- Excellence requires the courage to look at yourself in the mirror (or on film.)
Another good day.