Debate Team Reaches New Heights

Poly’s debate team continues to win at national tournaments held across the country


via Sophia Lam

The debate team holds up its trophies after a competition in Lexington, Mass.

Katie Futterman, Staff Writer

The debate team at Poly has continued to grow and achieve, reaching dozens of kids competing in tournaments last year. This number ranges from novices who have just started, to varsity competitors in their fourth year.

Three of the varsity teams already have one or more qualifications for the Tournament of Champions, which takes place in April at the University of Kentucky. This is a great accomplishment in the debate world, and the team is super excited to attend. The same three pairs, Sophia Lam and Julian DeMann, Dominic and Harrison Schlossberg, and Nick Stratigakis and Daniel Fernandez, also competed in this tournament last year.

On Martin Luther King Jr. weekend they took a trip to Lexington, Mass. where varsity teams Noah Kaye and Daniel Fernandez reached the quarter-finals and the Schlossbergs reached the finals. Additionally, novice team Sydney Santo and William Rothermel also advanced to finals.

The debate team has a very experienced and dedicated coaching staff. Head Director Janna White and Associate Director Matt Malia were both competitive and successful debaters in college and they now teach the class to 10th graders as well.

At Poly, the most popular event is Public Forum, where pairs debate current events. Currently, the team is arguing whether Spain should grant Catalonia its independence. These debates are focused on facts and often discuss economic advantages or disadvantages, and lives lost or saved. The goal is to be able to persuade an average person.

The other type of debate is called Lincoln-Douglas. This consists of one-on-one debates based more around morality. Currently, the four teams are arguing whether plea bargains should be abolished in the United States criminal justice system. Many of the arguments surround topics such as racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. Lincoln-Douglas debate is unique because it requires its competitors to speak as fast as they can, taking a breath only every once in a while. This is a more technical style, not as focused on convincing the average citizen but instead a very experienced judge.

Competing debaters always have to be ready to argue both sides. This can be very difficult, especially when one doesn’t agree with what they are arguing in the round. However, it is an important learning opportunity because it helps people to understand both sides of an argument. This is especially crucial when understanding current politics. Additionally, most people assume that debates occur on a stage in front of an audience. However, most debates happen in a high school classroom with just two
teams and a judge.

The debate team travels all over the country on the weekends, including to Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky and states in the Northeast.

In the fall, the team competed in a tournament at Yale University. In February, they will travel to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. The debate team will also attend Catholic Nationals in Washington
D.C. in May as well as Nationals in Florida in June.