Great Debate at Gordon Memorial

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Dr. Rodney K. Diggs

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Washington’s new administration, ethics, civil disobedience and criminal justice will be dissected by four debate teams next weekend at a church in Music City’s Hadley Washington Neighborhood.

To draw more attention to these national issues, the Reclamation Center and Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church are presenting The Great Debate – Nashville at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the church at 2334 Herman St.

The nearby Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School debate team faces McGavock High School’s Kappa League in an exhibition match. The main event is a forensic face-off between debate teams from Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.

“Although less than three miles of Nashville streets separate these great institutions,” Reclamation Center Board Chairman Dr. Rodney Diggs said of TSU and Vanderbilt, “the two schools have never met on the debate stage.”

Black Lives Matter, the Electoral College and immigration are are anticipated topics, the Rev. Charles L. White Jr., senior pastor at Gordon Memorial, said while announcing the event that’s been planned since before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

“There are relevant issues being addressed,” Rev. White said. “Immigration was an issue for years before the new administration raised it to a new level with the ban on Muslims.”

An academic approach to debate is a “time-honored tradition to elevate conversations that young people have,” White said. Those conversations are also about women’s marches, the use of social media, and the school to prison pipeline.

Debate is a teaching tool, White said. “Students who participate in debate tend to do better academically because of the research that is required to be able to debate subjects.”

Students build confidence, improve critical thinking skills and oral communication when engaged in debate on current events from all perspectives, he said. Studies consistently show that college debaters are great leaders and that participation in debate improves academic performance of students in general.

“Of course Denzel Washington and the movie ‘The Great Debate’ made the debates, again, a kind of relevant way of having these conversations,” White said, noting a history of debate in black colleges that goes back to the 1800s.

“Young people saw this as an art form,” the pastor said.

Vicki Yates of News Channel 5 is the moderator for The Great Debate – Nashville, and AG Granderson of 101.1 FM The Beat is the master of ceremonies for the program.

Admittance to The Great Debate – Nashville is free and open to the public. Audience participation is anticipated and, White said, “This is indeed a worthy cause that can move us from a place of talking about the issues to being part of the solution.”

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