Students clashed over what style of schooling is superior as the Gentile Gallery became a house divided against itself Sunday night, Oct. 20 during the 13th Dumb Ox Debate.
The event treated students to a lively parliamentary-style debate over a divisive motion: “This house believes that homeschooling is inferior to traditional schooling.” Attendance was extensive, as students filled both floors of the Gallery.
Emotions were high among those attending the debate, with both sides being staunchly opinionated. Expressions of approval or lack thereof, including feet stomping and moderate hissing, rang out in abundance throughout the night.
The first speech affirming the motion was delivered by Matthew Breuninger, professor of psychology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Breuninger spoke about how parents typically do not have the “educational pedigree” necessary to teach their children properly.
Furthermore, Breuninger expressed his disapproval of “ideologues” who protect their children from the reality of the outside world through homeschooling. “We do a great disservice to our children, hiding them from our fears,” Breuninger said.
Breuninger’s affirmation of the motion was supported by junior Emma Vansuch who asserted that “homeschooling is incomplete in fully forming an adult (in virtue).” Traditional schooling and its multiple viewpoints, Vansuch claimed, are what give rise to an adult with tested and strengthened virtue.
Sarah Wear, professor of classics, argued conversely based on Plato’s belief that “the aim of education is to craft souls (in virtue).” Wear said, “(The motion) discusses the manner or mode of education without thinking in terms of what the goals of education are.”
In support of Wear, sophomore Theresa Uhlenkott said, “Formation of the person happens long, long before formal education even starts to take place. (It) takes place within the family.” Uhlenkott mentioned how a good education requires freedom, relationships and God; these necessities, she claimed, are more present in homeschooling, where the bond of love in the family is fostered.
An open–floor session followed these statements, giving audience members a chance to assert their opinions and ask questions. The debate concluded with 97 votes opposing the motion, 73 votes in affirmation and 15 abstaining voters.
Recalling the debate, senior Peter Flaherty said, “A lot of the arguments (during the open floor) were … not debating the topic at hand, rather (relying) on personal testimonies.”
Freshman Brendan Norton was also dissatisfied with the spontaneously anecdotal open–floor session. “Everyone’s child is different, so (a case-by-case approach) would have been better,” Norton said.
The debate was organized by the Veritas Society.