Penn Debate Society and Philomathean Society debate the effectiveness of progressive stacking


Photo: Amy Liu

Less than three weeks after teaching assistant Stephanie McKellop sparked national controversy for tweeting about using progressive stacking in the classroom, Penn Debate Society went head-to-head against the Philomathean Society to debate whether the teaching method does more harm than good.

Progressive stacking refers to a teaching method that involves giving historically-marginalized students priority in the classroom. In a tweet dated Oct. 16, McKellop wrote,  “I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC [People of Color] get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.”

In a parliamentary-style debate moderated by the Penn Political Union on Oct. 9, students argued whether it is appropriate for McKellop, to use progressive stacking in the class on gender and race. McKellop is a TA for the class HIST-345: “Sinners, Sex and Slaves: Race and Sex in Early America.” 


PDS member and College junior Alex Johnson said the debate was intended to address the effectiveness of the method, not its intention. 

“The debate is more about whether progressive stacking is actually an effective method of making sure people feel comfortable and feel prioritized in academic spaces, not whether if that comfort and that safety is a good thing at all,” Johnson said. “Both sides agree that it is a good thing.”

Two PDS members, including Johnson, argued against progressive stacking, while two Philomathean Society members argued in support of progressive stacking. The students were not assigned according to their personal views.

The PDS team argued each student’s privilege in a classroom cannot be immediately quantified based on their…

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