For the past few weeks in English, our class had a B.R.A.W.L. as a way to connect to the global conversation. What is a B.R.A.W.L. you ask? Well, a B.R.A.W.L., found here on Mr. Theriault’s blog, stands for Battle Royal All Will Learn where students learn how to develop their own discussion questions and then prepare and answer those questions in front of the class in hopes of beating the other team. This is similar to a socratic seminar, but not quite. It is far more intense like a debate, but more laid back and less refined as there’s no right or wrong answer.
To start with, the class is split up into ten groups of three or four. Then, they are given a give to make questions and submit them to Mr. Theriault. Then, he would select ten of his favorite questions and give the class three to four days to answer those questions and prepare for the two-day B.R.A.W.L. On the day of the B.R.A.W.L. two teams are chosen and are given a random question that they hopefully had prepared, along with twenty or so minutes for the B.R.A.W.L. During that time limit, both teams are to clearly state their viewpoints/answers to the question while providing real life examples to them. The key was to be quick on your feet and be memorable. For this B.R.A.W.L., we were given the book, All Quiet on the Western Front , to read and prepare for this “debate/socratic seminar”. By deeply analyzing the text from the book to make insightful questions, the true importance of the book was brought on to a much bigger light.
So for my group, the Humpty Dumpties, had prepared for the B.R.A.W.L. by discussing the pros and cons of each question and by having these ridiculously intense debates against each other on iMessage. We all had contributed, but some people have done more than others. I helped in answering more than half of the twenty-one questions and provided for most of the examples and researching.
On the first day of B.R.A.W.L.ing, I was so pumped up for it. I couldn’t even sit still. My team was going up first against this other team, and it was so hilarious and an unforgettable experience. Words were being thrown across the room back and forth, skits were being done, points were made on fleek, voices were raised, and sassiness and sarcasm were your best friends. All in all people were actually having a great time and were really into it. Throughout the B.R.A.W.L., we used our team’s twitter account to tweet our opinions during each individual debate.
However, from the good note from the B.R.A.W.L., there were some places of error that I found. First off, basically everyone had the same viewpoint, so there really wasn’t much to add on to your point unless you want to contradict the other group and yourself. This happened to me as this one girl literally took the high ground, and left me and my partner speechless.
I wanted to say something but I couldn’t, as i would just go against everyone, including myself. So my conclusion is that if you’re presenting your viewpoint/answer and your opponent has the same idea, you win, hands down. Secondly, upon starting our second round (AKA the new and improved S.H.I.P.), other people were allowed to jump into the debate and it just got extremely chaotic.
People started rudely jumping in and interrupting people and then shutting them off from the debate, even when those shut off are the ones supposed to debate. Also, those that jumped in weren’t even answering the question they were just stating their viewpoint on another group’s viewpoint. This would go on and on, with words thrown all around the room and the question unsolved.
Another problem was that the debate/socratic seminar would always get to some degree of violence. People started yelling at one another, hormones were raging, and teammates even turned against one another. What was supposed to be a harmless ten-twenty minute discussion about the book became literally a small-scale version of an all-out-war. What happened in All Quiet on the Western Front had happened right here. Right here in our tight-knit family. We all had good intentions going into this debate, but once the enter the ring, the animalistic instinct kicks in the moment we realize that this is going to be graded. Thus, the sharp claws and fangs come out and everyone leaves the ring bruised and bloodied. Alive, but scarred.
By the end of the day, I had enjoyed seeing other people brawl against one another, even if things did get out of hand (even Mr.Theriault jumped in), and it was a very interesting experience.
From what I learned from the B.R.A.W.L., one must be quick on their feet, be passionate and confident on one’s answers, try to not to corner oneself into a hole and contradict one’s ideas, be persuasive and great with words, and be memorable.
Debates help spur thought for an answer, but they don’t always solve a problem. Sometimes, they just create bigger problems and a deeper rift between one another. It’s just like playing fire with fire.
On the bright side, I would love to do more B.R.A.W.L.ing, it’s so much better than just read a book cover to cover and then just taking a test on it and writing a fifty-point essay on it.
What I believe that Erich Maria Remarque is trying to convey through his work is the the hidden side of war. The side that only those on the battlefield can see.