Peaceful pursuit of veritas

The Veritas Classical Academy is a private elementary-secondary school located high on Harmar Hill in Marietta. Truth, goodness and virtue is the Veritas motto.

I was invited there one afternoon to judge a Lincoln-Douglas debate among twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.

The story I witnessed is as follows: The first speaker rose to state the proposition and key terms. Then the second speaker rose in an attempt to come to terms with what was said and what was meant by what was said. This was achieved by asking questions and questioning answers.

Once both parties agreed on what was said and what was meant, the affirmative speaker rose again to restate the proposition and to offer proof.

The negative speaker responded by agreeing or disagreeing. In some cases, the negative showed that the proof revealed a lack of relevant information or provided misinformation. In other cases, the negative showed that the argument was illogical or incomplete.

I am sure Lincoln and Douglas would have been impressed by the clarity of argument and the civility shown by each speaker toward the other.

There was clash and conflict of proposition, arguments and evidence. Yet, through it all, the speakers treated one another with respect and dignity.

These children showed wisdom beyond their age. They knew how to agree or disagree in a manner both rational and dignified.

Each speaker applied the principles of rational discourse prudently in an attempt to solve a common social problem.

During the debate, I tried to imagine the courage needed to overcome the fear of speaking before a judge, a teacher, fellow classmates and guests.

These students personified in practice the virtues proclaimed over the entrance door at Veritas Academy. Among these were wisdom, prudence, courage, justice, temperance and civility.

I walked away from the debate believing that these children were learning how to govern themselves without legal restraint. In addition, they were learning how to solve problems both personal and social.

This is the peaceful pursuit of veritas.

Lewis Rutherford