05.13.2016 — This past week, a first-ever debate was held at Maywood School on the topic of human and animal cloning research and whether or not it should be allowed. A group of five students, who are a part of Pete Riley’s drama class, presented both sides of the argument to a panel of judges that included Principal Carol d’Estienne, teachers Tom McTernan and Kimberly Gordon and teaching assistant James Risley.
Coached by teaching assistant Alexander Stern, the debate comprised five students: Dylan Throneburg and Shi-Ann Zarcone represented the dissenting side and Devin Williams, Michael Graham and Jordan Hatch represented the affirmative side.
Riley said he and Stern chose the subject of cloning as one the students would not likely have pre-conceived notions about. Rather than letting them choose a side, the students were assigned a side that they researched. They then developed an argument around the data they gathered.
The affirmative side citied medical and scientific breakthroughs to support their argument, including disease cures, a better scientific understanding of cell behavior, the ability for parents to help future offspring with disease resistance and in preventing birth defects, the ability to bring back such great minds as Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, infertility cures, improvements in recovery time, the repopulation of endangered species and the elimination of defective genes.
The dissenting side argued that the technology had the potential for misuse and abuse. For example, cells could be stolen to create clones the donor didn’t approve of, there would be no guarantee against corrupt people or organizations taking bribes to clone cells, the potential shrinkage and weakening of the gene pool and the current failure rate of animal cloning, which is at 95 percent.
Zarcone said, “The implication of what happens when the process goes wrong is not fully known. There could be abusive technology where, for instance, a ruler like Hitler could start cloning for abusive reasons.”
Other points made during the opposing side of the argument included religious objections, the opinion that clones do not have souls nor the ability to think like human beings and the idea that clones might not have full human rights because they are copies of people.
Hatch concluded the affirmative side’s argument saying, “(Cloning) could change our definition of what it is to be human. Undoubtedly, these benefits will come at a cost, but should we shrink from progress because we fear the unknown?”
The debate resulted in tie with all judges commending the teams for their hard work and delivery.
Principal Carol d’Estienne said, “You all had the poise to be up here. Each of you made eye contact and spoke clearly. This is an impressive amount of research that you’ve done, as was your ability to articulate that. The cross-questioning was very clear and respectful. Imagine if we could debate questions here at school in real life — how that would work?”
While the team was stymied at their efforts resulting in a tie, some students claiming a fix, both teachers were pleased with their efforts and performance.
“When most high school kids do a debate, it’s usually kids who are already inclined to do that sort of thing, kids who have ambitions to go into law, or who have dreams of going into politics … it’s the kids in this program who need to learn the skills of civil discourse and evidence-based arguments. They took to it in a way that I don’t think any of them thought they would,” Stern concluded.
Top photo: Shi-Ann Zarcone and Dylan Throneburg and
their teachers eagerly
wait for the judges' decision.
Top photo: Shi-Ann Zarcone and Dylan Throneburg and their teachers eagerly wait for the judges' decision.
Middle photo: From left, Michael Graham, Devin Williams
and Jordan Hatch defend their side of the argument.
Middle photo: From left, Michael Graham, Devin Williams and Jordan Hatch defend their side of the argument.
Bottom photo: From left, judges Gordan, Risley,
d'Estienne and McTernan weight the results.
Bottom photo: From left, judges Gordan, Risley, d'Estienne and McTernan weight the results.