Debate

By: Ryan Brady

I wanted to give a shout out to HB’s Speech & Debate team and our dedicated coaches (Mr. Habig and Ms. Cofer). Thank you for another great season!

Debate has allowed me to grow so much as a speaker and a thinker, and I have become a much more involved citizen by learning about current events. While many people think that debate is just a way to solidify ideas that you already have on a topic, it actually forces you to research and argue both sides of a resolution. Through participating in debate, I have studied topics ranging from the Catalonian revolution and the morality of militarily aiding dictatorships to whether or not the illegal use of drugs should be treated as a matter of public health.

The senate declared March 1st, 2019, as National Speech and Debate Education Day. I decided to write a brief article explaining different types of debate that HB participates in and hopefully inspire you to learn more about it.

  • Lincoln Douglas: LD is the debate event that I participate in. It was inspired by the seven famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass during the 1858 Illinois senate campaign regarding the extension of slavery. These debates regarded what we “ought” to do, and looked at slavery through a lens of morality and justice. This event is 1 v 1, and usually follows the precedent set by Lincoln and Douglass in that the debate is won by the person who best demonstrates that their side is the moral and just thing to do. The debater must prepare cases for and debate both sides of a resolution. A past resolution was “Resolved: In a democracy, the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.”
  • Public Forum: PF is a partner event that focuses on advocating or rejecting a position (resolution) that proposes a solution to a current events problem. An example of a past resolution is: “Resolved: The United States should abolish the capital gains tax.” PF is regarded as more fact based than LD (which is philosophy based), and the round is won by the team that proves why the resolution should be agreed with or disagreed with. Like LD, teams must prepare cases for and debate both sides of a resolution. The side that the team advocates for is chosen at the beginning of a round with a coin flip.
  • Policy: Policy is a partner event in which a team will advocate for a certain policy that should be implemented in the US in response to a resolution. Unlike LD and PF, policy debaters will form a specific plan that serves to implement the resolution. It is much more evidence based than both LD and PF. Policy debate is often characterized by its reliance on evidence and debaters that speed read (called spreading) in order to fit in all of their evidence and make it harder for their opponent to both catch what exactly they are saying (in hopes that they will not successfully respond to it) and to respond to all of the presented arguments in a limited time. An example of a resolution is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States.”
  • Congress: Congress debate unsurprisingly resembles the legislative process of US congress. Unlike other forms of debate, the competitors draft their own legislation on national topics which are compiled into a docket that is shared with the other competitors before tournaments. Then, each debater researches all of the topics and prepares arguments for and against the proposed legislation. Congress tournaments are divided into sessions of 10-30 debaters. Since topics are submitted by the debaters, there aren’t exactly resolutions, but bills will focus on national topics. For example, students could submit legislation on clean water or immigration.

Although there are other debate events, these four are the most popular. I hope that you will look into the different events and participate next year. Debate is 100% the most rewarding activity that I am involved in. It is a great way to meet students from other schools and develop skills like self reliance, persuasion, and adaptability. The season starts in the fall and ends in March with a chance to qualify for state and national tournaments. The debate team is very flexible, which means that you can join after fall sports and participate as often as you are able.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to learn more! My email is rbrady20@hb.edu.