This year, eight members of Ward Melville’s debate club qualified for the New York state debate championships in April. These members are: Ava Micena, Adam Bear, Rhys Alister, Natalie Dreyer, Daphna Fineberg, Kenzie Jarnagin, Justin Durko, and Deepak Kadur. Here, I interviewed five of these qualifiers to gain their insight into debate.
What brought you to the debate club?
Ava: I think that last year on mock trial, I learned to like public speaking. When I found out that Mock Trial wasn’t happening, I decided to join debate. Also, there weren’t opportunities like this at Gelinas.
Rhys: I was looking for a club with real-life applicability. Debate was something I felt I could apply to real life.
Natalie: I like arguing, and my middle school didn’t offer a debate team, which I would have done, so I was excited to start at Ward Melville.
Kenzie: I had heard about it last year, but I was in sports. Because sports were canceled this year, I decided to try it out.
Daphna: Some of my friends were in the club and it looked like an interesting activity.
How did you pick your partner, and what would you advise to people looking for a partner?
Ava: In all honesty, I thought my current partner was the best person in the club to choose. I would advise people to choose someone willing to put in the same amount of effort that you are. It should be a partnership.
Rhys: For advice: don’t be afraid to pick someone you don’t know.
Natalie: Ava picked my partner for me. For a good partnership, I think one person has to be skilled at speaking off the cuff, while the other person should be good at preparing.
Kenzie: Me and Daphna had been friends for a very long time. I knew Daphna had a great work ethic, and we didn’t want to debate alone, so we partnered up. I would say choose a partner that you like spending time with because you will be spending a lot of time with them.
Daphna: Kenzie and I were friends and we both loved to argue, so we decided to write a case and we worked really well together. We’re each better at one part of the debate, which is important to know when you’re looking for a partner.
Do you have a favorite part of debate?
Ava: I mean, definitely the actual competitions, because that was the reason I joined the club in the first place: presentation and speaking skills. Presenting your own work is definitely the most gratifying part of it.
Natalie: I think my favorite part of debate is the opening statement, because that’s the least stressful part. Or maybe when we can mute the other team at the end.
Kenzie: I think my favorite part is grand crossfire. It’s like the final time you can really go after the team.
Daphna: I like talking to the team after debates because we just go over everything and we can laugh about the stuff that went wrong or the weird arguments from the other teams.
Do you have a least favorite part of debate?
Ava: Losing. But, more practically, it’s definitely the amount of research, but if you have a good partner and topic, it isn’t as bad, and you get a good payoff at the end. Or, if you’re almost a half hour late to one. That sucks.
Rhys: Losing. Specifically, when you’re in a debate, and you know you’re losing badly, that’s the worst part. Oh, and preparation, that sucks too.
Natalie: The first crossfire round, because it’s the most stressful, and you can’t rely on your partner. And, if you misspeak, they can exploit that.
Kenzie: My least favorite part of debate is probably the waiting in between rounds, it makes me so nervous, and it’s a lot to wait.
Daphna: The actual debates are tiring, but it’s still a fun experience.
What do you think constitutes a good debate topic, rather than a bad one?
Ava: I think one that students don’t necessarily have a background in. Our first topic was Medicare-for-all, and most students came in with their own ideas, which affected the way they spoke on it. With one that is less related, it is easier to debate both sides and be unbiased.
Rhys: The ability for it to be argued equally on both sides.
Natalie: I think a good debate topic is determined by its’ applicability to real life. It’s easier to debate a topic that relates to your everyday life because you can have stronger opinions on it.
Kenzie: I think the vaguer, the better. It allows for a better debate with different points each time, which makes it more fun.
Daphna: A good debate topic has viable arguments on both sides, where evidence can be argued either way. Bad topics are ones that clearly favor one side. A good topic will lead to a good back-and-forth where the better team wins, not the better side.
What is a topic you would like to debate in the future?
Ava: Since I said the best topics are ones I don’t have an opinion on, I guess I would say I don’t know yet.
Rhys: Free healthcare in the US.
Natalie: The Electoral College.
Kenzie: I really wanted to debate cryptocurrency, since it’s relevant.
Daphna: The option for states that wasn’t picked was cryptocurrency, which I think would be a really interesting topic.
What is advice you would give to someone who wants to start debating?
Ava: This year is my first year debating, and I think I wouldn’t have such a good season if I didn’t jump all in. I think a big part of the learning process is failing, so even if you don’t think you’re completely ready, you really just have to go in and debate.
Rhys: Just know it’s a lot of work.
Natalie: I think that I would make sure that you have a mentor to help you through it. I had a mentor for my first debate, and it was much easier.
Kenzie: I would say, just go for it. There’s no way you can prepare yourself for debate without doing it. My first debate was so surprising, and I now know that you really can’t predict it.
Daphna: Have fun with it, and try to be creative when you’re thinking of arguments. Also, the only way to get better and to know how to fully debate is to just do it.
As another state qualifier, I would like to encourage everyone interested in debate to try it out. Ward Melville’s club is excellent, and debate is a very useful skill to develop. In addition, it’s a great way to earn achievements and accolades that many other people won’t have. Debate club meets every Thursday in room 237, and is always open to newcomers. For more information, please see Mrs. Porter.