Young debate team excels in competition
By Isabelle Spence, Editor-in-Chief
The small classroom is filled with words being spoken at hard to decipher levels. High school students rattle off obscure facts from dossiers hundreds of pages long. Students spend their weekends engaging in not only homework, but assignments typically harder than what they face in an average school day. To some, this scene may sound confusing. But, this is the core of debate. The complex club pushes its students’ ability to critically think, teaches them important communication skills, and helps bolster their inner confidence.
The school’s debate team competes in two different types of competitions: Lincoln Douglas (LD) and Policy. The six-person LD team participates in solo debates of persuasive speeches that focus on moral questions, while the smaller three-person Policy team competes in pairs and focuses on one evidence-based argument for the entire year.
The team attended their most recent competition on January 25 and 26. For the policy team, each debate follows a specific format. Each year, there is a standing prompt used at all competitions; this year’s prompt relates to the US government’s gun relationships to foreign nations. There are five or six rounds of debates against various opposing teams, with each round lasting up to two hours. At the most recent debate freshman, Loreli Fitterer and sophomore Alyssa Hawkins did very well, placing first.
The LD team consists of back-and-forth arguments, alternating between affirmative and negative. The current prompt examines whether states should limit their nuclear arsenals. At the last debate, Jessica Levin placed second.
“Our policy team is doing really well and our LDers are doing really, really well … but since it’s their first year, there’s a big learning curve for everyone,” assistant coach Callan Foster said.
The current debate team is young, consisting of freshmen and sophomores. These students include sophomore Alyssa Hawkins, who initially joined the club due to a friend’s involvement, but has since found a passion.
“You get to learn about stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to through school. And you get to go really in-depth on a certain topic,” Hawkins said.
The debate club also teaches a specific set of skills. Students learn how to communicate, format their thoughts, and above all, research.
“There’s a lot of internal motivation … The kids who are the most successful are the kids who debate, lose, and [then] they come back and they learn from why they lost, how they lost the last round, and [they] instantly want to do better,” head coach Matt Tilden said.
The skills can have a critical role in students’ lives post-high school, especially as a form of preparation for college. For Foster, the impacts of debate have lasted long past her involvement with the activity in high school.
“It [has] … set up a lot of the ways that I view the world. … It’’ made me a quicker thinker. … It’s problem-solving and it makes me be more engaged with the world around me,” Foster said.