Tensions were high as DCD fifth graders squared off in their annual Sparta vs Athens debate! This DCD tradition breaks each fifth grade class into two opposing teams– one representing the ancient city of Athens, the other Sparta– to face one another in a debate of values, perspectives, and societal structures.

After a brief introductory argument from each team, the debate began, covering such topics as Government, Military, Women, Daily Life, Childhood and Education, and Art and Architecture. Almost immediately, points of distinction and contention began to clarify between the two ancient rivals, from centralized government vs democratic participation, to gender and individual rights, all the way to such pointed issues as treasury spending. After a brief summarizing introduction of each concept, the debaters fired off questions to challenge their opponents, who responded in explanation of the reasoning behind their stated values. Some explanations proved easier to accept than others– we never did receive a satisfying answer to “why do you brush your teeth with rocks?”

Along with providing a foundational opportunity for fifth graders to engage in public speaking, this event offers an incomparable opportunity to confront cognitive dissonance and build critical thinking skills. Obviously, many of the belief systems of ancient Athens and Sparta conflict with modern perspectives– rather than ignoring these differences, these fifth graders tasked themselves with stepping into the shoes of their ancient counterparts to see the world as they once did. In the debate, they faced questions that they might have answered quite differently in their own voice– but it was the voice of Athens or Sparta that they spoke with, thinking on their feet to respond through a lens that was historically accurate based on their studies.

This year, Athens walked away with 2 out of 3 victories, so we can surely count on confrontational Sparta to come back with a vengeance next year!

Thank you to our incredible fifth-grade teachers, Mrs. Bemis, Mrs. Chiari, and Mr. Miller, as well as our wonderful volunteer judges, and of course our unbelievable fifth-grade debaters!