Redwood ‘Patriots v. Loyalists’ debate sets stage for Revolutionary War

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The annual “Patriots v. Loyalists” debate in Paul Stefanelli’s fourth-grade class at Redwood School on March 15 entertained as well as educated students, parents and administrators.

As part of their social studies unit, the class was divided into Patriot and Loyalist groups. Stefanelli challenged the groups to research their positions thoroughly, provide evidence-based information to support it, present opening and closing arguments, and create poster displays. The students were graded on organization, clarity, facts, presentation style and listening.

“The debate consisted of opening arguments on both sides, three pro and three con statements, a poster display and closing arguments. The students prepared their facts and research using a multimedia approach from numerous sources. In addition, the children used the writing process effectively to write their persuasive speeches,” Stefanelli said.

Patriots argued that there should be no taxation without representation and that imposition of the Stamp and Quartering Acts, along with others, to pay off England’s debt was unfair. Loyalists viewed King George III as a benevolent king providing services and protection. Patriots desired freedom and independence, while the Loyalists wanted to remain under British rule.

“All the information discussed was taught throughout the unit and the children showed an unbelievable sense of curiosity to learn more about how the nation was created,” Stefanelli said.

Despite the seriousness of the research, students presented their arguments in passionate and humorous ways. The sight of Stefanelli dressed and acting like King George III added to the lighthearted fun.

“There was also a question-and-answer session and trivia game, with parents vs. students,” Stefanelli said. “I liked playing and dressing up like King George because it gives the children a fun way to learn about the American Revolution and it will probably be a memory for the rest of their lives.”

Although the final vote supported the Patriot view, it wasn’t easy to decide which side had the more compelling argument. Principal Tim Beaumont, who hails from Wales, was disappointed.

“I have to support the Crown,” he joked.

Photos Courtesy of WOSD