Various skills developed through debate process
The high school debate season ended at Saucon Valley on April 25, when Pennridge argued the negative and Salisbury argued the affirmative on “Resolved: The United States should implement a DNA database for all criminal suspects.”
Northwestern’s semifinal team had its last debate just a few weeks earlier.
This year’s semifinalist team included Kyah Harding, Ben Fry, Sommer Farthing and Jason Woolley.
“Our semifinalists secured one judge in the first round, two judges in the second round and a win with all three [judges] in the third round,” said debate coach Beth Johnson.
Each team consisted of a first and second speaker, a questioner and a cross examiner.
“I open up the debate,” Fry said. “As the first person who talks, I usually outline a lot of the points.”
“I’m a cross examiner [but] I actually tried every position,” Harding said. “I like crossing the best. I like coming up with things on the spot and finding faults in someone else’s speeches. I like the whole arguing process.”
Johnson said debating offers many benefits.
“[As debate] teaches you to do research and [develop skills like] organization, the ability to look at both sides and deductive reasoning,” she said. [In debates, you have] to be able to see both sides of an issue and make rational decisions.
“Everyone is going to need public speaking, which is an indispensable skill.”
“A lot of people fear public speaking,” Fry said. “I have an advantage over those who fear it. I felt [debate] could help me hone my public speaking skills.”
Johnson said she had about 34 students debating regularly.
“This year, any of the members could jump in,” she said. “No matter what, I could count on them.”
“We usually write our speeches at the same time,” Fry said. “Everyone has access to each other’s speeches.”
“We [met] every Friday,” Johnson said. “We shared the materials, using Google docs as a vehicle to share speeches.”
In addition to arguing about DNA databases, debaters also argued “Resolved: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should legalize physician assisted suicide.”
Erickson Madeira is a junior, who has debated since his freshman year.
“It’s challenging, fun and competitive,” said Madeira, a cross examiner. “I come in with some questions, then write other questions during the speech based on what [the opposing team] said. I was a speaker one time but cross is better.”
Junior Trevor Spaide, who usually served as first speaker, saw his role as “setting the stage for the team and getting the best points out to begin with.”
Eventually he wants to do “something with the law. My dad was a police officer and both my grandfathers were police officers,” he said.
Skyler Hancock, a junior debating for a second year, said, “I’ve always wanted to do debate since I was a small child. My parents said I was always questioning.”
“As a rebuttalist, I can catch [inconsistencies],” she continued. “I’m very observant and I will write things down as I hear them,” attributes which facilitate a good rebuttal.
“I carry around [a copy of] the Constitution that is sticky noted and often comes out in debate. If the Constitution is [referenced] I’m allowed to bring it out,” said Hancock. “I’m a theater person which makes it so much easier for public speaking.”
Fry couldn’t agree more.
“Just being in both drama and debate has made me be completely comfortable speaking in front of people,” he said.
“I’m a nervous person all the time except when I’m [involved in] public speaking,” Hancock admitted. “I am 99 percent sure about going into law.”
Harding described debate as “a learning experience. I definitely gained in writing speeches, coming up with my own opinions on a short notice,” said Harding, who wants to major in criminal justice or forensics.
“I also like to hear other people’s opinions. It’s interesting to hear what others have to say. [Debate] opens your mind to different opinions,” Harding said.
“People don’t realize that there are a lot of different views. Other people have different opinions.”