The South Jersey Debate League tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 13, was the first in the club’s history
On Wednesday, Dec.13, the Clearview Regional High School Debate Team finished ahead in the first round of the South Jersey Debate League regional tournament, with both affirmative and negative teams winning against Haddonfield Memorial High School opponents. The tournament was the first in club history.
“It’s significant we are going to the competition because, over the four years I’ve been here, the Debate Club has never competed regionally,” said senior Luis Becerra-Solis, captain of the Debate Team. “This is the first year and that’s a big deal.”
During the tournament, held at Moorestown High School, the teams debated topics in regard to the prompted resolution, “Should the United States substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education?” Each school’s affirmative team would choose their own subtopic to defend prior to the debate, while the opposing negative teams must attack the proposed plans, unaware of what they will be presented with until the time of the debate.
The Clearview affirmative team, comprised of freshmen Evelyn Milavsky and Anna Kilpatrick, won the first round of the tournament when they argued the topic of anti-gay curriculum to Haddonfield’s negative team.
“We’re saying they should increase funding, specifically for inclusive sex education and we built our argument off of that point,” Milavsky said.
Clearview’s negative team, Becerra-Solis and junior Brianna Groch, who won against Haddonfield’s affirmative team, were presented with the plan to implement a voucher system within schools to allow students to attend vocational or technical schools in lieu of tuition.
“We made a lot of points about widening the income gap between low-income and high-income schools, the closing of low-income schools as they lost students in funding, and we made points about how the topicality of that would actually work,” Groch said.
In their defense or arguments, both the affirmative teams and negative teams are judged not on who is wrong or right, but which team argues their point most efficiently and clearly, with an emphasis on expert authority.
“All of their arguments have to be based in some authority, so they do a lot of citing and quoting during their speeches,” Advisor Michel Richard said. “For the negative team, even though they don’t know what the affirmative is going to say, if their counter arguments can include authoritative quotations or references, they stand a better chance.”
The Debate Team is a competitive branch of the school’s Debate Club, which meets weekly to debate informally together. According to co-captain of the club Kepler Palacio, a junior, the extracurricular is vital for students, specifically in high school, to practice formally discussing controversial topics.
“[High school students are] not given a lot of opportunities to actually sit down and have civil conversations like these,” Palacio said. “A lot of interactions that occur that are arguments are not really productive, so I’m happy this is able to give kids a productive, formal setting to discuss topics.”
Groch said the club is a safe space for students to share and collect information, where both sides of an argument are shown respect without “emotions getting in the way.”
“You really become well-versed on both sides of the argument, which is ideal in a way where you develop your own opinions with all of the evidence, not just your side and what you believe in,” Groch said. “You’re going to debate things in life, for the rest of your life, and it really helps develop that skill you’ll need in the future.”
According to Becerra-Solis, Debate Club is a “staple extracurricular” to have in schools, teaching students to speak in public, “eloquently articulate ideas” and formulate opinions on a variety of topics.
“Overall, I think it’s a fun thing to do and gives you a bigger insight on what happens in the country both on a federal and conceptual level,” Becerra-Solis said.
The Clearview Debate Team will move forward to the second of seven rounds in the tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 20. In the end, the highest earning schools will compete in a championship week on Feb. 21.