Held at Helix High School on Saturday, Sept. 14, students from 15 different schools gathered for the tournament, which was a parliamentary debate format. Bishop’s had 24 students participating in the event. Eight students on four paired teams went undefeated for a 4-0 finish. Assistant coach, English teacher Elly Smith, chaperoned the students for this competition.
In parliamentary debate, speakers are assigned a topic and a position on that topic about 20 minutes prior to the session. No Internet research (e.g. Googling) is permitted, but there is an offline data base called Prep for students to research topics and facts for their arguments.
Senior and co-president of the team Timmy Kelly notes, “Parliamentary debate has always been a strong suit for Bishop's students, as it primarily involves speaking off the cuff and coming up with solutions to big issues on your feet, which the Bishop's Harkness style of teaching has prepared us well for.”
Speech and debate at Bishop’s now involves approximately 90 students from both the middle and upper schools, and is one of the largest extracurricular activities on campus. The School fields two teams that compete in off-campus competitions. The varsity team is comprised of students in grades 10 through 12, while ninth-grade students compete in the Novice division. Three of our undefeated teams were varsity members Tobey Shim ’20 and Schuyler Capita ’21; Timmy Kelly and Quinn Rodriguez ’20; and Ryland Birchmeier ’22 and Luca Patapoutian ’22. The fourth undefeated team featured freshmen Eli Browne and Kasie Leung. Timmy says, “It was very rewarding to see all of our new novices do well in their first competition, and especially rewarding to see Kasie and Eli win all of their rounds—they were the only novice team in the league to do so!”
Head coach Matt Valji notes one of the most remarkable things about this group is “how hard the kids are working, demonstrating critically important skills necessary in our current social and political environment in a thoughtful way. They learn how to respectfully disagree, how to defend their beliefs, and understand the perspective of others when assigned a position on a topic they don’t agree with.”
Quinn describes the experience, saying, “A memorable moment for me was when my partner, Timmy, and I argued for a modified version of a UBI (we called it the WBI for Welfare Basic Income). It was one of those crazy moments in speech and debate when you’re forced to come up with a creative solution, one that you might not even believe in, and have to defend it.”
Like Timmy, Quinn thinks their Bishop’s experience gives them a solid foundation, adding, “I think the skills I’ve learned from speech and debate easily apply to other subjects. As we get older, we’re expected to do more public speaking and Harkness discussions in class. We have to be able to present clear and concise arguments, which are the foundation of debate. In addition, I think speech and debate really helps you become a more analytical thinker, and see the flaws in arguments or plans.”
While no photos or video are permitted during the actual debates, allowing for a safer learning space and experience (and making it harder to “scout” a potential opponent), one wonders if these seasoned debaters still get butterflies. Quinn spent her school year abroad in Italy last year, so she says she was “very worried about coming back to debate and competing” adding, “I’ve been doing speech and debate since the ninth grade, and I still get nervous before every tournament and every round!”
Timmy responds, “Quinn and I have been debate partners for about three years now, so some of the nerves that I once had when I was younger don't really exist anymore. In Speech and Debate, like all things, confidence comes with practice and repetition. Our team spends several hours every week preparing for our competitions.”
Congratulations, one and all!