Debate adds to legacy in competition

Over mid-winter break when most students were either lazing around the house or vacationing, nine of the debate team students were participating in a national tournament at Harvard University.

The team left Feb. 12 and returned home Feb. 18. The tournament itself did not begin until Saturday but during the days leading up to it they explored the area surrounding Harvard.

“Basically as soon as we got there we started touring to try and adjust to East Coast time,” sophomore Kelty Pierce said. “We took a tour of Harvard, we took a tour of Boston and went on a trolley tour which is similar to the Duck in Seattle. We went on the Freedom Trail and went by Fenway Park and the garden. We went into a couple museums.”

One of the sights the team saw was the Mary Eddy Baker Library, which has the Mapparium.

“We went to the Mapparium which is the Mary Baker Eddy museum for the Christian Science Monitor,” junior Thomas Bacon said. “Inside there was a globe that you walk inside and it is all stained glass, something like 200 panels of stained glass. It was very cool. When you spoke under the center it was like surround sound, like you could whisper and everyone could hear. That was probably the coolest part of the trip.”

Debate also went to Las Vegas several weeks ago for another tournament. They have about 15 tournaments in a school year and the local ones differ subtly from the away tournaments.

“Harvard was different compared to local high school tournaments in the fact that a lot of the kids spoke a lot faster, they spoke a lot louder, more confident and they really seemed to know their stuff. They were also very polite,” Bacon said.

The East Coast competitors differed in more ways besides demeanor. People were more proficient and practiced in their debates than at local tournaments.

“Especially if you are going to Harvard, you are not going to send just anyone. So these are the best of the best nationwide. People were a lot more professional and polished,” Pierce said. “Being at the national circuit was different from the local circuit.”

The enormity of the tournament took some of the students by surprise.

“The scale of it, the amount of people that were there– it is just such a bigger tournament than any tournament that we have been to here at local high schools,” sophomore Nick Samuelson said.
Harvard also set up and conducted rounds differently than how the West Coast does. Bacon went to the Las Vegas tournament this year and last year and noted the differences between East Coast and West Coast.

“I would say the main difference is that in Vegas there was a little bit more West Coast style of debate versus East Coast style,” Bacon said. “West Coast style is a little more laidback and casual whereas on the East Coast it is a little more formal, like you look at each other while you debate whereas on the West Coast you do not look at each other, you look at the judge. It is kind of weird. I think the way they do it on the East Coast makes more sense.”

For each of the tournaments attended, debaters have to put in many hours of work to thoroughly research their topics and properly build their cases.

“For Harvard, we had to do one lab every week which is an hour and a half after school Mondays and two practice rounds which would be 45 minutes to an hour. We were here three or four days after school preparing for it,” Samuelson said. “For normal tournaments we would be here minimum one day a week, most of the time two, to prepare. There is also time put in outside of that to write the cases and find good evidence to build up the cases.”

Although debate has a heavy workload, it definitely pays off both socially and academically, according to Pierce.

“Debate has the reputation of being nerdy… but I really like the friendships that I have made and the people I have met that I would not have otherwise,” Pierce said. “I like that this is an opportunity for me to do public speaking more regularly. On the English side in class we focus on different things: we analyze speeches and good speaking habits and what makes a good performer. I really like that it is a chance to learn what I would not have normally learned and then also look at things from a different perspective and dig a little bit deeper.”

Debate gives the opportunity to become a better public speaker to everybody.

“It is definitely something where if you are interested in public speaking or if you think that you would be successful then give it a try. You do not have to be involved in the class, you can just come in after school,” Pierce said.