Debating Responsibility

6, 7, 8

Students gain insight into differing perspectives by examining a scenarios and engaging in a debate about the benefits/consequences of taking or avoiding responsibility. 

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • analyze a situation dealing with responsibility.
  • examine a situation from a point of view.
  • present arguments from one point of view.
  • Student copies of Handout One: Debate Guidelines
  • Student copies of Handout Two: Debate Scenarios
Teacher Preparation 

Rationale for debate experience:  Given that Abe Lincoln was a debater and given that any scenario has two sides or multiple perspectives, the debate format was selected to give students a "forced field" experience when examining a scenario. The guidelines have been provided to assist the process. This lesson provides extensions as well. This lesson may take longer than 20 minutes.


  1. Teacher Note: Form the students into two groups. One group is assigned the pro side, and one is the con side. You may post the names in advance on the board under Pro and Con. It is recommended that you choose the scenario from Handout Two that will have the most meaning for your class. Alternative: establish the debate team of 4-5 students per side, with the remainder of the class divided in sub groups (pro and con). Each Pro and Con group works on arguments, feeding their ideas to the 4-5 students who will present. During the debate, the non-debating students become the audience.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the students that, like Lincoln, they are going to debate an issue related to taking responsibility. In a few minutes, they will be given a scenario to read and debate.

  2. Teacher: Today, we are going to continue our examination of the benefits/consequences of being responsible by debating the pros and cons of a scenario. In order to make this a positive experience, let's briefly review the organization of a debate and the rules of debate. The purpose of debate is to see both sides of a situation. You will be assigned either the pro side or the con side of taking responsibility in a given scenario.

    • First, you will work with your team to develop arguments and then debate.
    • The pro side will speak first, explaining why the student should act responsibly in the given scenario. Then the con side presents.
    • Then the pro side may ask questions and challenge the con side. And then the con side may ask questions.
    • Finally, each side has one minute to summarize their position.
  3. The rules of debate:

    • presentation should speak directly to the question.
    • presenter must remain calm in presenting views
    • no name calling or put downs are allowed
    • respect for each other must be maintained at all times.
  4. Ask the students if they have any questions about the procedures of debate or the rules.

  5. Hand out the designated scenario(s). Advise them that they have 5 minutes to chat within their team on their position, then they will present their position, following debate guidelines.

  6. Debate begins: Pro side has four mintues to present; Con side has four minutes to present. Pro side has two minutes to ask clarifying questions. Con side has two minutes to ask clarifying questions. Each side has one minute to prepare their last statement on why they believe their position is best. Pro side has one minute for stating their conclusion. Con side has one minute for stating their conclusion.

  7. Reflect with the students on what is the best position to take in the scenario.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.