ETA: Opens opportunities through online debates

COLUMBIA CITY — While politicians recently held debates in front of millions of viewers, Eagle Tech Academy was also conducting debates with high school students across the country.The debates, held online with more than 2,000 students in 30 different schools, were part of a national New Tech Network election project called “#MyParty12.”“This year for 2012 we wanted kids to create their own public policies,” said ETA English teacher Joe Urschel. “They looked at cause and effect, problems and solutions. They had to propose real, viable solutions.”Urschel said Columbia City has been known as a hub for outstanding scholastic debate and critical thinking for a long time, and this experience gave students a chance to nurture their public speaking abilities.“It expands the classroom to be so much bigger,” said Urschel. “During all three presidential debates the students tweeted what they thought of the debates. This has opened up a lot of opportunities for us in terms of future projects.”Urschel said in these debates the questions were submitted by viewers.“One question was on nation building,” said Urschel. “The question asked: In an increasingly interdependent global society, what should the United States’ role be toward nation building? This was submitted by the governor of Colorado — and the kids had to answer it. They knew what type of question they would have to answer, but it really made them study hard because they had to be able to answer the question.”According to Urschel, ETA’s debate team, the Open Arms Party, making it into the final five.“This is a wonderful program,” said Urschel. “We are working very hard to cultivate a positive online presence, and the kids are the biggest force in making that happen.”