There is no debate, these students know how to make a case | ParkRecord.com
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There is no debate, these students know how to make a case

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Dale Thompson Of the Record staff

These students are looking for an argument. "I really like discussing topics that have meaning with people who know what they’re talking about," says Debate Team co-President and senior Hannah Nicholes.

The team argues every imaginable topic from politics to philosophy and their aim is to do it well.

The coach, Matt Nagel, helps the 25 students sharpen their skills and prepare for tournaments.

One of the events they participate in at tournaments is Student Congress. Twenty-five students act as the U.S. Senate and try to pass legislation such as lowering the voting age or bringing our troops home from war.

This is a particularly difficult event because, "Unlike every other event you don’t automatically get a turn to speak. The winner is the person that gets to give the most speeches," said Nagel.

Patrick Patterson, a sophomore, routinely finishes in the top three during Student Congress.

"Policy is the most work," said Jennica Laberten, a senior. Teams are given one policy to debate throughout the entire year and the event requires a large amount of research.

The Lincoln Douglas event, also known as the Value Debate, requires students to argue politics from a values standpoint. A discussion might focus on whether or not separation of church and state is good.

"They have to substantiate their opinion with philosophy," Nagel explained. This can include citing Kant, Lock, Hume or other noted philosophers.

However, the importance of debate extends beyond argumentation. "In communication you have a lot of misconceptions that create problems. If we practice the art of communication there will be fewer problems," John Garrison, a sophomore, said.

Many students on the team feel their debate experience will help them in their future. "I want to go into politics when I’m older and I think it’s a good jumping off point," said senior Ashley Fields.

She hopes to have a career in public service and her dream job is to be Secretary of State.

Fields added, "I think it’s probably the most important thing you can do in school. It exposes you to other people. Public speaking is on a lot of people’s top 10 list of fears. If you can conquer that in high school it opens doors."

Laberten has other ambitions. She said, "I want to go into international and foreign affairs." She feels debate will give her a solid foundation in that line of work.

Sarah Belfort joined the class because she wanted to try something new and said, "It’s helping me with speaking. It’s a fun experience and I like everyone that’s in the class."

The debate team fosters friendships and healthy competition. "The social environment is good. The peer pressure you get on the debate team is – where are you applying to college?" Nagel said. Several students want to debunk the myth that the debate team only appeals to a certain type of student. "It’s our own group of people. They accept you rapidly no matter who you are," Garrison said.


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