Darwin comes out on top in Baumholder history debate
Stars and Stripes May 31, 2008
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Who is history’s most influential figure?
Take a seat, Socrates.
Can’t judge a book by its cover, Johannes Gutenberg.
You’re deleted, Bill Gates.
After months of research and a series of daylong debates, the Baumholder High School sophomore honors world history and literature class determined the man or woman who had the greatest impact on humankind to be Charles Darwin.
"I was considering doing Gandhi," said Darwin portrayer Maria Sherman, who through presentations and debates persuaded the majority of her 23-student class that the father of the theory of evolution was worthy of the title. "But when I thought of Darwin, I realized his discoveries affected all carbon-based life on Earth. You can’t do bigger than that unless you take God, and we weren’t allowed to do that."
Sherman won her case for Darwin in a runoff debate and election against Alex Lewis, who portrayed rocket science pioneer Robert Goddard. The two had tied in the first round of final voting, which also included software giant Bill Gates, portrayed by Alexis Love.
Called "The Power of One," the exercise — which included historical figures ranging from Alexander the Great to Copernicus to George Washington to Princess Diana — came down on Thursday to head-to-head debates between two candidates, with a vote of the students determining which of the two figures advanced to the next round. It was the debate portion that complicated the assignment, according to Zandria Hooks, who portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt.
"It’s a lot more work than just doing a report on the person," Hooks said. "You have to know about all the others so you’ll be prepared to debate them."
Hooks, along with Dominic Jones (Harriet Tubman), Keyanna Rawls (Rosa Parks), Alyssa Maltman (Martin Luther King Jr.) and Kendrea Cameron (Clara Barton), seemed at a disadvantage in selecting quieter humanitarian and civil rights leaders instead of obvious political and scientific figures, but the sophomore said it was all in the approach.
"I don’t think it’s a disadvantage," she said. "It depends on how you present your case."
Sherman, who speaking as Darwin said, "With my ideas in science, I impact every one of us every day," added her candidate to Baumholder’s three past Power of One selections — Adolf Hitler, V.I. Lenin and Sigmund Freud — in the exercise supervised by teachers Carter Hollenbeck and J.J. Stallcup.
But getting the British scientist into that diverse group of past choices was far from easy, Sherman said.
"There were a lot of very good people," she said, "who made some very strong points."