Words are tools that can bring about change.
Sixth-grade students at Jane Macon Middle School have explored the power of words for the last several weeks by researching, writing and editing argumentative essays.
The students shared their work Tuesday with Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, who met with some of the students in the middle school’s media center and listened carefully to two arguments students have written supporting or attacking the need for a local curfew.
Harvey also shared his own views on curfews. Rather than support either side fully, Harvey took a middle ground approach.
“When I grew up, it was in a time where there wasn’t so much crime in our world,” Harvey said. “Now, it seems to be that there’s a lot. When I grew up, we used to go outside and play all day. Our parents didn’t really care where we were, as long as we came back home before 6 o’clock.”
Times have changed, though.
“You guys are living in a time now where your parents want to know where you are at all times,” Harvey said.
Safety for all local residents should be a priority, Harvey said, and curfews can minimize the risk of crime.
“Do you think your parents have a say so on this curfew stuff?” Harvey asked.
Immediately, a student answered, “No.”
Students and teachers laughed. “Okay, I didn’t expect that,” Harvey, also laughing, replied.
The conversation took a philosophical turn, with Harvey asking the students about their perceptions of their own human rights and the rights of others.
“Well you have to ask the question, when do your rights begin?” he said. “Do your rights begin where someone else’s end? Or do you have individual rights because you are a human being?”
Harvey said he liked how the assignment got the students thinking about their own rights.
“I hope I confused you just like I confused myself,” he said, wrapping up and opening the floor for questions.
The students have spent a month developing their arguments, said Angela Spencer, a sixth-grade teacher at Jane Macon. Harvey’s point of view allowed the students to see how this topic has real-world implications, she said.
“They were able to hear other pieces of the puzzle, as far as the evidence of the pros and the cons,” Spencer said.
The students’ writing skills have flourished throughout their work on this assignment, said Haley Johnston, a sixth-grade teacher at Jane Macon. And she hopes they’re able to see the importance of knowing how to craft a well-written argument.
“I always tell them that their words have power, and they really don’t understand what I’m saying when I say that,” she said.
Many professions, like law and politics, require the skill of argumentative writing, she said.
“It’s hard for them to wrap their head around sometimes, but when they see something like this where they do have to present their argument to somebody, then they realize that this is really something that we need to know,” Johnston said.
Spotlight on Schools appears Thursdays. Contact Lauren McDonald at lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews. com to suggest a topic for a column.