Debate is arguably an important part of Park City High School students’ experience
Team sets sights on the Tournament of Champions
With school back in full swing, the Park City High School debate team is kicking off its season. Excited for the upcoming year, team captains Natalie Best and Cody Rutkowski share their stories and express what makes debate such an integral part of their high school experience.
Best and Rutkowski joined the team without having any formal debate background.
Best said she came in with the attitude, “Oh, this looks fun,” while Rutkowski said he’d stopped playing basketball and “needed something to do after school.”
They soon discovered debate is much more than just an after school activity – it’s an academic undertaking that forces students to think critically about the world around them and propose solutions for tackling society’s biggest controversies.
“Out of anything, debate pushes me the most academically,” Best said. “I consistently face the most challenges, and constantly have to think in new ways.”
Debate’s academic value doesn’t stop at learning how to think, though. Best said it also supplies her with knowledge she can apply to situations in her everyday life.
“Almost everything I know about, why I’m so well read, it’s because of debate,” she said. “If you love learning about the world and want to learn more about it, go check out debate because it will expose you to new ideas and frame a lot of events in a different light.”
Rutkowski added, “When you play football, the main aspect of getting really good is so you can play for college. But in debate, the program provides so many larger benefits besides just participation. I could go into public speaking and do really well, or I could go into politics and do really well just because I have that fundamental understanding. Debate opens up the door for so much more.”
In addition to its numerous academic benefits, Rutkowski stressed debate’s ability to improve confidence and public speaking.
“Debate is one of the best extracurricular programs you can put a student into,” he said. “lt’s so much different than any other sport or club that exists in Park City just because it gives you the ability to stand up in front of a room and command (it).”
“If you have anxiety about public speaking, if you’re not good at it but wish to improve and conquer that fear, then debate is the activity for you,” she said. “Anyone who does debate will come out a better public speaker, a better writer and a better communicator overall.”
Best and Rutkowski compete in a type of debate called Public Forum, a partner event in which students affirm or negate a proposition regarding federal policy reform. Topics change every one or two months, depending on the state of current events. This September and October, the topic is whether the federal government should increase investment in a high-speed rail system.
Even though Public Forum is a partner event, Park City relies on each individual’s contributions to the team at large.
“Overall, debate is a team event,” Rutkowski said. “At region and state (tournaments), we accumulate points as a team that go to Park City’s record.”
Best added that, besides competing, there are other aspects of debate that demand team-wide collaboration too.
“Aside from being in round, there’s researching (and) practicing drills,” she said.
Public Forum isn’t the only event Park City participates in. Debaters also work with the speech team, which participates in a variety of competitions testing students’ current events knowledge and improvisational skills.
Rutkowski commented, “There are centralized leadership roles that have to communicate because each event’s needs are different.”
For the school to succeed, “there needs to be good team bonding,” he said.
Teammates also cooperate as they travel to competitions together not only across the state, but also at high schools throughout the entire country.
“National circuit tournaments are much more difficult,” Rutkowski said. “They provide challenges in that we’re competing against not just the best schools in the state but also in the nation.”
Furthermore, national tournaments give students the opportunity to “bid” for the ultimate achievement: attending the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky. This May, Park City hopes to send a couple of teams to Kentucky to compete on this biggest stage of high school debate.
For now, though, Best and Rutkowski are focusing on having fun and enjoying the experience.
“When people hear debate they think of two teams arguing, but there’s so much more,” Best said. “It’s so amazing and so fun.”
Debate is an “invaluable resource” added Rutkowski. “At the end of the day, if you want to be a more confident person, if you want to present yourself in a more meaningful way to the world around you, if you want to boost your college application, join debate.”
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