Debate team reflects on season


Anjali Shah

Checking in judges, senior Jessie Calvert, junior Nadira Shabbir, sophomore Kristina Humphrey and freshman Jon Ma prepare for the Parkway West Invitational debate tournament.

Crowding near a wall in the cafeteria stapled with a jumble of sheets of paper with names and room numbers, anxious students try to find their rounds. This is a debate tournament. These students have put hours of preparation into what they are about to do, but when the round begins, these students must also think on their feet.

“You definitely need public speaking skills and you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” sophomore Kristina Humphrey said. “And you have to be good at quick thinking because you have to come up with rebuttals really fast and you never know what your opponent is going to say.”

Humphrey, who joined debate her freshman year, knows the pressure of the debate experience, but also how rewarding it is.

“I usually pace around outside the room before and give myself a pep talk. I have to remember that it is not the end of the world and that it is going to be fun. We know a lot of the people we debate and it is exciting to debate them and see who wins,” Humphrey said. “Depending on who you beat, winning a round can be huge bragging rights. It is just fun in general to place, win and get trophies.”

The debate team has competed in four competitions to date, the Greater St. Louis League pre-season/limited prep festival, the Parkway West Invitational, Oakville Congress, and the Liberty High School Invitational.

“Parkway West did really well in the Oakville Congressional Debate Tournament where you emulate congress,” senior Bryan Zhang said. “We had three people get first place and then one person who won an award called Permanent Presiding Officer which is like the Head of Congress.”

There are three types of debate, including public forum, policy and Lincoln-Douglas. These subcategories are each issued a different topic which changes monthly or yearly.

“Lincoln-Douglas is a debate of a moral issue, public forum is based a lot on facts and policy is based on reasoning,” Humphrey said.

Zhang specializes in policy debate, which is selected one topic by the National Speech and Debate Association which is constant for the entirety of the season. The current topic is whether or not the United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.

Depending on who you beat, winning a round can be huge bragging rights.”

— Kristina Humphrey

“The policy topic does not change. If you lost the round the first time, you might do it again in another tournament and change up your strategies. You are constantly making your case better and revamping,” Zhang said.

The debate team meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. with sponsor Cara Borgsmiller, to get ready for upcoming tournaments and to evaluate previous ones.

“To prepare well you have to do lots and lots of research and then you have to write cases which are essentially prepared speeches that give specific reasons why you are for or against the certain issue,” sophomore Nina Maitra said.

Although debate is scored individually, the team is  focused on the idea of community.

“The people in debate bond over common victories and common losses,” Zhang said. “I and others have cried over rounds because we haven’t done well or because we’ve done really well and were shocked and surprised. We bond over moments like those and we become like a little family in a way.”

Apart from places and trophies, the debaters recognize that there is more to debate than winning.

“Debate is important; I think you should be able to talk about how you feel and express your ideas. It also is a way to get more informed about the world,” Maitra said.