Two Professors Enhance the Learning Experience by Debating Current Events


Valencia students, faculty and staff joined together on December 1, 2011, to watch “A Conversation Between Two Liberals,” a debate featuring two influential Valencia professors: John Scolaro, humanities professor, and Jack Chambless, economics professor.

Proctored by Desmond Duncan, political science professor, each participant had the opportunity to pose a question to the other, with the rebuttal taking place in conversation. Desmond would intervene to move the debate along if the conversation became too winded.

This academic exercise spawned a dynamic and meaningful dialogue about the appropriate role of government – a question that is said to have additional implications with the continual diversification of the nation, coupled with increasing new technologies and the influence of globalization.

Jack and John’s students were especially primed for a spirited debate. “I bet they won’t agree on anything,” a student was overheard saying to a classmate. To that student’s surprise, there were moments of agreement on the issues of immigration rights and whether Valencia is doing the best job it can in serving the needs of the community, the country, and our students.

Both professors agreed that Valencia should perhaps become more elitist in its admission process. “Professor Scolaro has been here for 23 years and I’ve been here for 20,” Jack said, “and we have watched an ongoing erosion, overall, in the quality of students that we’re getting at this institution.” He continued to say that he thinks “we are in agreement that Valencia going forward needs to do a little bit more to be honest with people about what you need to do to be ready to be in college and give people more to think about before they go so deep in debt and make a bad decision.”

Those moments of agreement were short-lived, however, as their views diverged on issues such as the Occupy Wall Street movements happening around the nation, whether or not to place limits on how much money a person is allowed to earn in the United States and if our country should adopt a similar version of the European healthcare system.

John’s hope for the debate is that it inspired and deepened the audience’s understanding of the “hot issues” of the day – both on a national and international level. “Being informed is an important aspect of citizenship in a democracy,” he said.

Jack and John have come together periodically over the past 20 years to engage in similar events. Jack shared that this particular debate, however, was somewhat bittersweet due to John’s impending retirement. “This will be our last opportunity, in all likelihood, to sit down in a forum like this.”

Despite that, John insisted that he would like to see these types of conversations continue at the college, with Jack emphasizing the importance of this academic exercise, expressing that the college should encourage professors to get out of the classroom and “mix it up every now and then so that people can learn and have their views challenged and think about things in a different way.”

Do you have any thoughts on the topics that Jack and John discussed during their debate? If so, please leave a comment below.

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