Was it a Debate or a Debacle: My Seventh Grade Students Could Have Done Better

Man oh man, if you did not watch the first Presidential debate, you’ve probably read the morning headlines or morning tweets regarding it by now.  I believe the funniest tweet I’ve read suggested having Andy Cohen, of the Real Housewives shows, moderate instead.  Whoever said that made a good point.  Honestly, throw a middle school teacher in as moderator because we can get the job done.  The rules had been clearly laid out prior to last night’s debate and had been agreed upon by the candidates, yet one side continually decided to ignore the rules. 
President Trump consistently interrupted Joe Biden’s attempts to answer the questions posed.  Interrupting a speaker is strictly forbidden in the rules of debate.  Each speaker is allotted their 2 minutes, the moderator may signal a 10-second warning of their end of time.  Let me go back to the interrupting rule, in some handbooks a team member who ignores the rules can be disqualified from the debate.  Chris Wallace did feebly attempt to silence the president, to which Trump responded like a petulant child not getting his way.  If you are going to moderate, you need to have grit and gumption and maybe mute the dang microphone if the speaker refuses to follow the rules. 
In fact, if I were the moderator, we would have called it a night. Click To Tweet
In preparing for debates in my Pre-AP classes, I have often had my students watch clips of presidential debates for an example.  Last night would have been an example of how NOT to debate.  With one exception, Joe Biden stayed the course and followed the rules for the most part.  In my debate lessons, I’ve had my students prepare facts for both sides of an argument, the morning of the debate, they draw a card stating which side they had to present.  This may be unusual, but it made them look at both sides of the issue and be prepared to speak on either confidently.  They could not wing it.  Prior to the debate, we reviewed: rhetorical/argument/persuasive techniques of ad hominem, strawman, ethical, logical, emotional appears, etc. 
I taught my students how to recognize their opponent’s statement and refer to it in a polite manner to which many of my 7th grades, yes 7th graders, would often begin their statement “I appreciate your thoughts on ____”  or “While I see your point, I still believe _____”  My students were not allowed to attack the other in a personal affront.  In all the years I taught either debate or Socratic Seminars, I never had students behave in an undignified manner. Never.  If my 7th-grade students could follow the rules laid out before them, tell me why should grown men behave any differently? 
The behavior at this debate resembled a playground pissing contest with a timid first-year teacher trying to break it up.  I do hope the next time these men meet, someone has the gumption to mute them.  In fact, that should be part of the format period.  While Biden speaks, Trump’s mic is muted.  Then in turn, when Trump speaks, Biden’s mic is also muted.  If the candidates continue to ignore the agreed-upon format, then shut the whole thing down. If that had happened last night, a better lesson would have been learned by all of not cowing down to a bully.

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