Would the world be a better place if average civilians were in charge? If we replaced all the out-of-touch politicians and corrupt world leaders with normal law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, would there be more peace?  

What if we went one step further, and let students make the big decisions?  

That’s the question Dr. Catalin Ursu’s Social Justice 12 class is trying to answer by engaging in a week-long debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The class was split into two groups – one team representing Israel, the other representing Palestine – and were put to the task of discussing various issues and topics relevant to the 70-year-old conflict. The idea of the debate is not to reach an agreement between the two parties, but rather to give students an understanding of why peace is yet to be reached in Israel and Palestine  

“I want students to learn more than the conflict itself,” said Ursu. “I want them to understand that what we talk about in Social Justice is not easily accomplished. Human rights are not easily upheld. Going through this experience, I hope that students will understand the tremendous task that we as Canadians have ahead of us, as a nation, as a champion of social justice and we have an obligation to spread it over the world.”  

Furthermore, the debate is an excellent opportunity to develop public speaking skills and quick thinking. “I think the debate is a great environment where you can ameliorate your speaking skills. If you are passionate about this kind of thing, you really have fun learning and debating. It’s a great place to better your understanding of the conflict and the actual debate helps you become quicker on your feet with problem solving skills,” said grade 12 student Soha Samii.  

Formal political debates can be aggressive and packed with rhetoric, but the Social Justice 12 debates were quite the opposite. While voices may have risen past an acceptable indoor-speaking level, student’s points were well researched and thoroughly thought out, hopefully marking the beginning of a new age of fact-based discussion. If the leaders of tomorrow could continue being as respectful, calm, and informed as the Social Justice students, there may yet be hope for peace.   

Photo credit to ProCon.org