The Debate Club

David Ryan

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On March 29th, the final round of the Rockland County Debate League competitions for 2017 was held at Nanuet High School. This is the third year in a row Nanuet has had the honor of hosting this tournament. This event was the culmination of a six month journey for the members of the team: Ben Chun, Sara Lieberman, Nikki Ferro, Samantha Frieri, Jessica Gwardschaladse, Carol Tsao, Shrilakkshmi Babu, Shrividhya Babu, Riana Baust, Melanie Guaman, Victoria Lhotak, Roisin Ross, Philip Tobin, and Eugene Om.


The debate club is part of the Rockland County Forensic League. During the fall, nine members of the club compete in a speech competition. In this competition there are five categories.  Two members of the club read poems, two read a prose selection, two perform a dramatic monologue, two deliver an impromptu speech and one writes an original speech that is four to six minutes long and delivers it.  The contestants in the first three categories are judged on their ability to read and perform with clarity and on their ability to use their performance of their pieces to convey the meaning of the text. The contestants in the latter two categories are judged on the originality of their interpretation, their ability to create a clear coherent speech, and their ability to deliver the speech with clarity and feeling. The speeches also changes every year. In order to compete with other competitors, the students in the debate club practice delivering orations, and this year five of the students in the debate club won awards.


In the spring, there is the actual debate competition. Two teams from each school debate against other schools. The contestants are assigned a topic to debate at the beginning of the school year. The topic for the students is always a resolution. For this year, the resolution was that the federal government should significantly alter its policy regarding energy product in the U.S. The debaters then have to be able to argue both the affirmative and the negative side of the resolution. For the Affirmative side of the debate, the debaters have to write one speech, which explains what is wrong with the status quo and the harms caused by the wrongs in the status quo. Then, they write to create a plan, which is feasible, fundable, and is enforceable to address the weaknesses in the status quo and the harms caused by the weaknesses. For the negative side, the debaters must prepare to attack the ideas presented by their opponents arguing the affirmative side for their own schools. In competition, debaters will alternate in different rounds between being the affirmative side, which presents and defends its plan and the negative side, which attacks the reasoning and the plans of the teams from the school.

This year, the four students who debated are Ben Chun and Sarah Lieberman on one team and Jessica Gwardschaladse and Carol Tsao on the other. Both teams qualified for the finals of the county competition this year. Nanuet lost a tightly contested match in the semi-final round to North Rockland High School which won the title for the second year in a row. Last year, North Rockland defeated Nanuet in the final round.


But, whether or not the contestants are the champions, all of them learn lessons from debating. Ben Chun summed this up when he said, “When I participate in debate, I learn to study issues in depth and from different perspectives. From planning an argument (even if I don’t agree with it) to choosing my words wisely, debate allows me to become a better critical thinker. I am excited to see what my final year of debate will throw at me and am hopeful that next year’s team can take it all.”

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The Debate Club