Sunday, November 30, 2003

Elementary pupils debate

Kids argue immigration issue

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

SHARONVILLE - Anyone who asks Jordan Shepherd about educating children of illegal immigrants is likely to get an earful.

The Sharonville Elementary School sixth-grader spent the past 10 weeks researching the topic in preparation for student debates last week.

After contemplating a few stances, he has decided he'll argue against a free education for the children, largely because of the cost.

"I read the (U.S. Supreme Court) case and thought about it," Shepherd said. "I took the negative side because we have to pay for so much."

In his speech, he outlined the costs to educate each child, an estimate of how many illegal immigrants there are - particularly in border states - and the fact that taxpayers shoulder the cost.

"We reward them for breaking the law."

Not so, says Allison Pfeiffer, a fifth-grader who argued the opposing point of view in a separate debate.

She based her argument on the Constitution, its amendments and President George Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation.

"They're children," Pfeiffer said. "If we don't educate them we'll have to pay more if they go on welfare."

Students in Pat Bowes' fifth- and sixth-grade gifted and talented classes conducted the debates. Since September they have read fictional and real-life stories about immigration for language arts, learned about immigration law for social studies and studied the U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler vs. Doe .

"They're using problem-solving skills in real-world situations, especially with the growing population of Hispanics in our area," Bowes said. "My generation didn't solve it. My parents' generation didn't solve it. We asked: 'What is the problem? Is it illegal immigration or something else?' "

This is the first year Bowes has had fifth-graders enter a debate. Aimee Barnes, 10, said she was ready for it.

"I did a lot of research," said Aimee, a fifth-grader who argued in favor of educating children of illegal immigrants. "I found tons of articles in support. I was practicing with my teammates so I'd be ready."

Sixth-grader Nicole Donnelly prepared for the debates by pretending to yell at her older brother. "I'm just imagining yelling at my brother, Kevin. He makes me mad."

In doing her research, Nicole was surprised to read of the turbulence illegal immigrants encountered when trying to cross the border into the United States.

"I didn't expect things to be so violent," said Nicole, 12.


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