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‘Great Debate’ takes place just in time for Wisconsin Primary

February 21, 2008

On the eve of one of the most important presidential primaries in Wisconsin history, the College Republicans, College Democrats and Socialist Alternative groups on campus participated in a debate in the University Center. The three groups discussed controversial topics: education and foreign policy, with an emphasis on the war in Iraq. Nick Carow and Dan Mahr were the representatives for the College Republicans; Frank Freeman and Matt Dale for the College Democrats; and Nick Schillingford and Alex Halverson for the Socialist Alternative.

The moderator for the debate was political science professor Neil Kraus.

“I believe a debate such as the one we had last night is an important way to hear an exchange of ideas on important matters,” Kraus said in an email interview. “It seems to me that a college campus is one of the best places to have such a debate.”

The first topic of debate for the night was education. Mahr, began the conversation with the advocacy of free school choice for all parents.

“[We] must be dedicated to delivering world-class education,” proclaimed Mahr. “We should allow funds to follow students in their school choice.”

Mahr and Carow emphasized the success of charter schools, which are similar to private schools because they are separate from the public school system, but different because they are not affiliated with a religion.

Freeman spoke for the College Democrats, emphasizing the failures of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Freeman argued that the public school system is an adequate system that needs improving, especially in the urban areas.

“[The problem is that] the teachers are spending time teaching to the test, not the curriculum,” Freeman said. “Progress is not shown because of a flawed system.”

The Socialist Alternative brought context to the both topics of debate.

“The educational system has a history of institutionalized funding and segregation,” Schillingford said.

Shillingford argued that the measurement of the success of the public education system should take into account other aspects of life such as environment. He proposed that the educational system should remain independent of the two political parties and to provide funding by taxing the “mega-rich.”

After twenty minutes of open discussion, the debate shifted to foreign policy and the war in Iraq.

The Socialist Alternative representative Halverson began the second half of the debate with a historical reference to Chile’s tyrant government during the 1970s. He used the historical context to bring forth the problems with the current U.S. foreign policy.

“Competition for foreign resources drives policy and that, ultimately, puts the country in danger,” Halverson said..
Organizers of the event were pleased with the event.

“Overall, I thought the debate was a success,” Kraus said. “Perhaps we might change the format slightly in the future, but overall it went well.”