Weekly Web Debates

Weekly Web Debate Contest: A Written War of Words!

Everyone wins when everyone gets smarter! Stretch your brain. Sharpen your writing and research skills. Join these weekly interactive written debate contests on today’s latest topics where every entrant receives personal feedback on arguments from expert judges.

 

Above, winners Dylan Brown, World View HS, & Coach John Curci with 1st  place winner, Jaden Rocha, Pelham Lab HS.  

Requirements

  • Grades: Open to all students grades 6-12 (We will alternate between high school and middle school each week).
  • Piece Length: Submit only ONE opinion piece of 400-500 words (High School) & 300-400 words (Middle School)  Use editorial style as a model.
  • Rebuttal Length: (After opinion winners are selected and posted) is 50-100 words including evidence
  • Voting: Entrants must “vote” for the best of opponents’ essays by responding.
  • Respect, civility, & professional language, good humor required!
  • Clear, concise, organized, interesting paragraphs are all pluses; debate jargon, a minus!
  • Submission of opinion piece (1st step) must include:
    • Only 1 clear claim
    • Evidence & its source
    • Reasoning
    • Significance (future impact)
    • An anticipated challenge to your view
    • With your answer to that challenge.
  • Prizes: There will be e-gift card prizes for finalists & winners!

Schedule

  • FRIDAYS: A topic & anchor text launches.
  • MONDAYS: You have until noon that coming Monday to write and submit your 1 eligible* opinion piece in the comment/reply box for either Pro or Con. Your post will not yet appear publicly.
  • WEDNESDAYS: By noon the following Wednesday, (new, extended time!!) all entrants must resubmit a revised version of their opinion piece. You will have received brief, targeted feedback to aid you. Qualified judges then select a limited number of SEMIFINALISTS whose pieces will now appear, though anonymously.
  • THURSDAYS: Only those select SEMIFINALIST opinion pieces appear, anonymously. All entrants now choose to refute 1 best opinion from these “elimination round” choices. You are voting for the strongest opponent response with your choice! You have until Thursday, close of business day, to submit a 50-100 word counterargument, with evidence, that directly responds to that piece. Some select refutations will also win from this “elimination round,” posting publicly as the FINAL ROUND.
  • FRIDAYS: Judges evaluate FINAL ROUND. All winners are announced, named & posted for fame & glory. NEW topic launches for the next week’s cycle for the 2nd age group. NEW topics release and open for your age group every other week.

CONGRATS!!  MS Winners! May, 22  

Cameron Anderson, 1st Place, Pro

Brooklyn Heights Montessori School  

 

Darius De Biagi, left,  2nd Place, Con, PS 343, Bronx  

Malaysia Black, right, 3rd Place, Pro, PS 343, Bronx  

Nikita Chernin,  4th Place Champ, Con, IS 239, Mark Twain 
Hailey Espinales-Fernandez, below, semi-finalist, Pro,     In-Tech Academy, Bronx  

 

 

Next: A  HS CONTEST! 

 

 

 

NEW!  HS Topic 1st Draft due June 29!!  

TOPIC:  New York’s COVID19 prison release policies are, on balance, undesirable for minority communities.

 

Task:    The infection rate among inmates in New York City’s Riker’s Island is nearly seven times higher than in the rest of the city, reports the Washington Post last week.

Some 2.3 million people are behind bars in U.S. jails and prisons.  Many are sitting ducks for a virus that thrives in cramped quarters.  But current  hasty policies of decarceration are releasing masses of people who, due to America’s short-sightedness, now face a lack of health care,  job opportunities, affordable housing or access to welfare.

   As the decarcerated and prison staff get infected, they’ll bring the virus home and infect the surrounding community.  These are too often under-resourced rural towns or communities of color, whose hospitals and economies are already strained to the breaking point.

 

 But this government seems to be okay with that! 

 

 Releasing prisoners might reduce overcrowding inside, but if the virus has already spread, it risks creating new problems. Prisoners tend to be poor, and may not have anywhere to go. Some are homeless, or have no fixed address. Angel Rodriguez, who directs Avenues for Justice, a New York-based non-profit group that works with at-risk youth, says one of his clients entered Rikers disease-free, but had contracted covid-19 by the time he was due for release. Since he lives with his 80-year-old grandmother, who has respiratory problems, his release was delayed while they worked out where to send him.

 

Radley Balko, journalist on criminal justice noted, “A number of public defenders and criminal-justice-reform advocates who were hoping the mass emptying of the jails would help make the case for bail reform. Once thousands of low-level offenders were released to prevent virus spread and needless deaths, the thinking went, we’d see that keeping people behind bars because they can’t afford bail is purely punitive, and doing so does nothing to improve public safety.

       But that argument rested on a faulty premise. It assumed that when confronted with the urgency of the covid-19, that upon the realization that prisons and jails by their very nature make inmates sitting ducks for a highly communicable and potentially lethal disease, judges, governors, prosecutors and other public officials would have enough regard for the health, welfare and humanity of incarcerated people to at least get low-level offenders out of harm’s way. It assumed they would give a damn.

     It was a good-faith assumption, grounded in the notion that even the most retributive among us would want to prevent needless mass deaths behind bars. It was wildly optimistic.”

 

Read the model anchor text below. Research other examples and points of view. Then, choose your one main claim, & let the games begin!

 

Anchor Text:   Click this link below!

Boston Herald Staff: “Decarceration Short-sighted”

CONGRATS MS  May 20th Finalist Winners!

All entrants, submit your 1 refutation of 1 opponent by Thursday, May 21st!

Champions announced and awarded Friday, May 22nd!

 

 

Pro MS Finalist #1 of 2

Social media is a very dangerous place. While some enjoy it to cure their boredom, others are being attacked just because of their appearance or where they are from. Hate speech can grow like wildfire on social media, making communities turn on each other and be destroyed, and the responsibility of censoring it falls on social media companies.

On social media platforms, hate speech can be shared with thousands in minutes. And you never know who it might go to. It shouldn’t be tolerated but it could go to someone who doesn’t care or to someone who is clinically insane. If these videos, pictures and comments are censored by social media companies, then the risk of harm to others is reduced.

Hate speech has been directed at people who are from China. Hashtags like #wuhanvirus and #kungflu are very offensive. They highlight harmful and false stereotypes about people from China.  According to The Listening Post, President Trump has been trying to label Covid-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” When this goes onto social media and millions see it, it hurts people from China and unfairly makes them feel responsible. Not everyone from China was in the country when this pandemic started. They also cannot control how fast their country closes. It is not their fault that this pandemic started. This hate speech on social media is labeling everyone from China as a culprit.

Some people may say that this hate speech should be protected as free speech. In the news, hate speech is talked about to warn people and to inform them. In social media, hate speech is harmful and has led to many bad things like people being attacked.

If hate speech is censored it could help save people. As hate speech increases so does the intensity of these crimes. Right now it might just be offensive comments and stereotypical notions such as thuglivevids entertainment trying to squirt a woman from China with hand sanitizer. However, as this goes on people from China could start dying. Yet, if we stay positive and block out hate then we could be stronger than it. We can use positive sayings such as I am stronger than any hate. And to help block the hate, it could be censored. Social media companies have the power to stop this once and for all. They just need to take that one step of censoring hate.

REBUTTAL!!

In 1992, Congress directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to examine the role of broadcast radio, television, and computer bulletin boards (early social media) in encouraging violent acts and the commission of hate crimes against designated groups. The study couldn’t link telecommunication to hate crimes. Therefore, the First Amendment recognizes that the government cannot regulate animosity without silencing the dissent and dialogue that democracy requires. Therefore, social media shouldn’t be linked to threats against Asians during this pandemic. Instead, we possess the power to answer hateful speech through debate, protest, questioning, laughter, silence, or simply “walking” away. 

 

 

Pro MS Finalist #2 of 2

There is a profound correlation between hate speech and deaths. Many homicides are caused because of hate speech and if social media companies don’t censor hate speech, the already grand amount of deaths will only increase.

My first example of hate speech causing a homicide which was actually a mass shooting happened only a year ago. ”Christchurch on 15 March2019, leaving 50 people dead and dozens others wounded. On 8chan (the now infamous image-board website allowing and promoting hateful comments, memes and images), the shooter posted about his plans and wrote that it was “time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort After he put his plans into execution, he was praised by many other 8chan members.” One life being lost is tragic and now because of hate speech, only one year ago fifty lives were taken all at once. Unfortunately this is not the first time a mass shooting occurred due to hate speech. ”The authors of some previous mass killings, notably in Northern America (the Quebec mosque in 2017; the Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; Isla Vista, California, in 2014) had also shared their motivations on online fora like 4chan/pol, Gab, or incel message boards.”

The need for hate speech to be censored is even more necessary now in the time of this pandemic.”Hateful online abuse targeting Asian people has increased by a monstrous 900% since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a report.”(digital trends)” Racism against Asian Americans has surged as the coronavirus sweeps the U.S., with reports of hate crimes averaging approximately 100 per day, according to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.).” Asian Americans are now at an increased rate of hate crimes and by not censoring hate speech ;( a prime resource to promote and influence physical and mental abuse) we are only adding to the certainty that the Asian population will decrease vastly.

Others may try to claim that by censoring hate speech we are taking away one’s rights. Yet hate speech is taking away one’s right to live. Being able to read a humorous “innocent” racist joke; is nothing compared to a life being taken. Rights aren’t being taken away to an extreme amount,we are only taking away threatening or abusive speech (Oxford’s definition of hate speech) .

Especially in this time by censoring hate speech so many lives will be saved.

REBUTTAL!

While hate speech at times can be related to actual hate crimes, censoring the hate speech on social media will not truly stop the hate. Racist and sexist people will always harbour racist and sexist thoughts even if their speech is censored. All you’re doing is bottling up that hate, not removing it. According to Buzzfeed News, “When faced with hate speech incidents, colleges often tend to provide a “counter speech” instead of censoring it, which has been proven useful in curbing hateful actions”. The way to stop hate isn’t censorship, it’s using our freedom of speech to combat hate speech.

Pro MS Finalist #3 of 3

How would you feel if someone judged you on the way you look? Or the clothes you wear? Or the food you eat? No matter the circumstances it is never right to hate on anyone because of the way they look.

We are currently in a time when we should be helping each other rather than hating each other. Did you know hating on people can make some people twice as likely to harm themselves. If someone were hated on, they are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than people who weren’t. And the amount of hate speech seen on twitter, directed specifically towards Asians, has increased by 900% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And researchers found that “San Francisco had more than 1,000 reported cases of xenophobia between January 28 and February 24 of 2020.” For those who don’t know what xenophobia is, it’s when someone has a fear or something against people from another country. How are we supposed to support and take care of each other when there is so much hate towards multiple groups of people. And believe it or not less than one percent of Asians actually have the coronavirus. Over a 15-month period between 2015 and 2016 there were about 995 million tweets about race. Did you know that in the year 2016 there were 2.6 million tweets that were considered anti-Semitic. What if you were in the shoes of the people receiving the hate. What if one day you decided to go on Facebook, Instagram, or twitter and you saw something that someone wrote about your race or someone said that you are the reason why this pandemic started. And then you continued scrolling through and saw another one saying the same thing with different words, and another, and another, and another. By the time you decide to get off your phone you have read hundreds of these. Wouldn’t you want something to be done about it? Or would you be okay with hundreds of thousands of people saying these things?

Many would say that the first amendment gives us the right to the freedom of speech, however this is an amendment made in 1791, that is 229 years ago. During this time smartphones weren’t even invented yet, this problem of hate speech on social media wasn’t even a worry, now times are completely different.

Congrats Con MS Finalist Winners!

May 21st, 2020

All entrants, pick 1 opponent to refute by Thursday, 5/21!

Champions announced and awarded Friday 5/22!

 

Con  Finalist # 1 of 2

Hate speech plagues America and social media, the coronavirus has made Asians even more prone to be targets of hate speech. However, allowing social media companies to censor hate speech is not the way to go. There are serious complications with defining hate speech, this paired with the inevitable abuse of censorship will lead to a no longer free society.

“Hate speech” is speech that threatens or incites violence, but what exactly do people consider to be threatening? What exactly incites violence? It is this uncertainty that makes it unwise for social media companies to censor hate speech. There have been certain jokes going like calling COVID the “kungflu”. Now while this can be considered to be racist and stereotypical, the chances of these jokes being meant to incite violence are very low. We don’t all have the same perspective on these things, so it would be impossible to discern what exactly is hate speech without there being bias and restrictions on our freedom of speech. This is what would happen by granting the power of censorship to someone like Mark Zuckerberg.

People like Zuckerberg are simply unfit to differentiate between what is and isn’t hate speech. As the NY Times reports, “Facebook refused to moderate or fact check politicians speech, allowing political disinformation to spread”. Are these the type of people that are fit to define hate speech? For one, to ensure that there will be no hate speech on the platform they will have to start censoring any sensitive topic like racism. Even if they get rid of those trolls and people who posted racist and sexist comments, those feelings will still remain with no real way to abate them.

The solution to these real-life incidents that have a connection to online hate speech isn’t censorship, because how are we, as a democracy, supposed to get through these problems without being able to talk about them? Censoring anything related to prejudice against Asians is just bottling up these feelings people have towards them, not removing them. The only way we can take strides towards solving our problems is by talking through them and clearing up this hate. While there will always be some people spreading hate, like trolls or extreme racists, we would still have a way to decrease this hate instead of pushing it down. Censorship only impedes on this ability that we as a free democracy have developed.

REBUTTAL!

Hate speech isn’t too vague to decipher. A threat is“a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone”Oxford Dictionaries.  So no jokes calling covid “kungflu” wouldn’t be censored.To “play” on my opponent’s side, if jokes like kungflu were to be censored then all we’re doing is sparing someone’s feelings from being hurt. Censorship would censor something like this “we should kill Asians”, this is inciting violence. My opponent states one person would control our social media platforms. The topic is companies censoring hate speech, meaning more than one person.

Con  Finalist # 2 of 2 

Social media companies shouldn’t be responsible for censoring hate speech on their platforms. The First Amendment addresses government censorship. Social media can censor as it sees fit, but, it’s important to understand the differences between the press and social media and how the First Amendment is protected. Social networks aren’t required to abide by the laws of the First Amendment. These companies are the ones to decide to do something about animosity.

One of the problems with censorship is some ideas are valued more than others. As the Animal Farm quote goes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”. “They could say, ‘We’re only going to publish people who are of the Republican party,’ and there is nothing to prevent Facebook from doing [that]…” says Nadine Strossen, a law professor at New York Law. Discrimination laws prevent corporations from discriminating on race, “… not political ideology.” Part 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 established protections from liability for providers of an “interactive computer service” for carrying third-party content. This established social media as an unmediated bulletin board. Why should this change? “This is why social media companies.., said, ‘We aren’t media companies; we are tech companies,’” said Strossen. “They knew they had the power to act as traditional media companies and serve an editorial function in choosing what to publish, but said, ‘We are choosing to not engage in that kind of content discrimination, and will let all voices have equal access to our platforms.’”

Social media’s inherent quality is to influence people’s perceptions. By censoring, companies are implying what information the public ought to know and to be hidden. Any framework a company uses to censor will have flaws. These flaws arise from picking what forms harmful content. If we accept that the bias of developers could lead their algorithms to be discriminatory, then, we should expect the political biases of such programmers to lead to discriminatory algorithms that favor their ideology. Censorship is problematic because there is little transparency in how companies censor. This makes it easy for anyone to influence public perception under the pretense of removing “harmful content”. It appears ideas that run counter to accepted assumptions are removed. This is problematic because it leads to circumstances where companies are deciding how people should think. Thus, censorship, dangerous in principle, is also a suboptimal business model.

REBUTTAL!!

Social media companies should censor hate speech. Some may say that if social media companies can censor posts, they might be biased about who they censor. However, with proper guidelines, we can ensure that both sides are heard without people or groups feeling attacked. Another viewpoint is that social media is inherently influential, and should be a place for people to see how others view themselves. With my solution, people can learn about multiple sides without being attacked. This would create a safe, non-biased space for everyone.

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