[UP FOR DEBATE] Ep. 1: Welcome to debate


Submitted by Maya Sachs

Sachs attended a summer camp that let her meet people from around the world. “I still facetime them every night,” Sachs said.

Ivy Raya: Hey guys my name is Ivy Raya and today I am interviewing Maya Sachs about her passion for debate. This episode we will talk about a variety of topics we will start with stating Maya’s experience with debate and what she likes about it and we will go into her experience with school debate and camp debate.

Raya: Hi. Like, can you tell me about how long have you been doing debate? That kind of stuff!

Maya Sachs: Yeah. So, um, my name is Maya Sach, and I’ve been in debate for the past. This is my third year of debate at SPA and I started sophomore year.

Raya: So like, what do you do in debate? Like how’s the season going this year?

Sachs: Yeah, so in debate. We have, you know, obviously debate class during school and then there’s also practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after school and the Wednesday practices are something called captain’s practices. So I happen to be the captain of the debate team and I lead debate practice and lead students in drills practice debates, all the prepare because on the weekends, we have tournaments. The tournaments range in length, so some tournaments might be 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, like debate rounds that are super long and then some might only be three or four. So yeah, it’s a lot of prep during the week and then going and traveling to schools or doing virtual debates during the weekends.

Raya: So how do you find like, what do you think debate means to you?

Sachs: Yeah, so debate. I got involved because I really I’m really interested in politics, and it seems like a great mode to research different current events. But what I’ve really loved is the community. For example, I did a two week debate camp over the summer and met some of my best friends. And even though they live in New York or California, we still FaceTime every single day, because you meet a diverse group of people who all like share the same passion as you. So it’s really fun to kind of mix those two things and learn about other people’s experiences, but also share the thing you love.

Raya: So where did you go to debate camp?

Sachs: I went to Victory Briefs Institute in California for two weeks, and I went with a group of SPA students like Henry Choi, Henry Hilton, David Schumacher, Serena, and Delin. And it was it was really awesome. We learned a ton and I’m really excited to apply that right

Raya: So what like, is was something you want to pursue in college?

Sachs: Yeah, so I two things. A, I’d either continue debating in college, we do public forum debate, which is primarily a high school type of debate. So if I were to go on into debate in college, I would learn a new kind of debate, either policy, which debates policies specifically or there’s also something called Parliamentary Debate. Either that or I also really love coaching and teaching. For example, over the summer, I ran the SBA debate camp. So in college, I might also want to pursue that and kind of take on more of a coach’s role.

Raya: So what like I’ve never done debate before, so like, what will be like my first introductory into debate?

Sachs: Yeah, so this is a complicated question, but I’d say the first thing that you know if you’re at SPA and also, at other places do, when you introduce someone to debate is you have them watch a debate round. So it’s usually about an hour long and students are introduced to like, what’s with all this fast-talking, what are they talking about? What are the topics, what are the kind of argumentation skills applied? How do you ask questions? And so when you see it, it kind of all starts to come together. And then after that, a lot of it is doing research on the topic so students are prepared in round to talk about it. And the topic for example, right now, our topic is should the United States federal government, substantially increase its investment in high-speed rail, and another big piece when you when you have new students novices in debate is just getting them familiar with the different speeches because some speeches you have pre-written before you go into the rounds and others you have to do off the top of your head based on what your opponents are arguing in the round. So it’s just building that familiarity and understanding the structure, which speeches are where stuff like.

Raya: What’s your favorite thing about debate?

Sachs: I would say the community like I just all of my best friends are in debate and it’s really fun because we get to spend our weekends. Okay, maybe this isn’t that fun to other people. But you like wake up at 6 am and you all, like carpool together to a school or go to someone’s house and debate there. And you just get to spend so much time with people who love doing the same thing you do. And then you also get to connect with kids from other schools and often like contact information might be shared or you might say hey, like, I thought your argument was really good. Do you want to prep together, stuff like that?

Raya: So I’ve heard that you have a debate partner and you like talk with them the entire time. So what was it like building that relationship throughout the years?

Sachs: Yeah, so debate partnerships are really crazy and fun because I remember like, when we did the exercise in ninth grade, where it’s the first day of debate class, and you watch a debate, we watched like the 2019 nationals round and at the start of the round, they did these thank you’s and someone went up and was like, I want to thank my partner. They’re my best friend. The best person in the world. And Mr. Cheng, who was our previous debate coach said, like, you might not get this close with your domain partner, but I actually think I have and you really do, because you spent like, years working with the same person spending all of your time on the weekends with the same person. So you do build a really close relationship. So my partner is Henry Choi shoutout, Henry Choi. He’s the best and it’s really awesome working with him.

Raya: Yeah, So you also have this as a class. So what do you do in that class? What’s your homework?

Sachs: Yeah, so class is really time to hone in on skills that you will apply in round. So we do a lot of speaking drills. For example, we give practice rebuttals. Rebuttal is the speech where you break down your opponent’s arguments. And we also do a ton of practice debates in class. And we spend a lot of time doing research so it’s really all of the pieces you need to go into a tournament to be successful.

Raya: So what was your favorite topic that you’ve debated about?

Sachs: Ah, this is such a hard question. Um, there’s topics that I found that more interesting. For example, we had to the United States federal government, legalize all illicit drugs, which was really crazy to debate. And then there’s also topics that just hold a special place in my heart because I’ve done debated some of my favorite rounds on them. For example, The Tournament of Champions topic, the Tournament of Champions is like, it’s the nationals of the national circuit. So you have to do well enough at national circuit tournaments to qualify to like the Nationals, which is Tournament of Champions. Our topic last year was something about should like Japan get rid of its Article Nine statement and Article Nine was like, it’s basically saying that Japan can’t build offensive military capabilities. And that topic just holds a special place in my heart because I got to debate with Spencer before he left Spencer was a previous to debater at SPA who it was really great working with him and yeah, we just did a ton of hard work a ton of hard prep and we created really good arguments that I’m really proud of.

Raya: So what do you think like, interesting you more like the topic of the debate? Like what to do when the topic isn’t interesting to you?

Sachs: Yeah, so you’re gonna have some topics are more interesting to research but for all of them, you have to do the work anyways. But whenever a topic is released, the process is you start by just reading articles like you, you figure out who the most common authors come up when you type in, for example, Article Nine into the Google search bar, you start reading all those articles, and then from there, you start taking and copy and pasting the best parts of those articles into documents. It’s called card cutting. You’re creating like little pieces of evidence, snippets of evidence you want to use later. And so that’s that’s the next step in the process. And then from there you piece snippets of evidence from different authors together to formulate a cohesive argument and so for example, right now, we’re debating should the United States federal government substantially invest in high-speed rail? So I have one card at the top of my argument that’s like, right now the transportation system is the biggest carbon-emitter, carbon-emitting sector in the United States. And then after that, from another author, we have a card that says high-speed rail is dependent on electricity, so it would significantly reduce carbon emissions if we get high-speed rail. And then we have another card another piece of evidence that says, you know, climate change is bad because it causes X amount of deaths. So yeah, it’s just piecing all this together.

Raya: So it seems like you can find just like these arguments on the internet. How do you be a better debater than the person next to you?

Sachs: Yeah. So that the research and having really good arguments definitely helps with, like getting success in debate because if you have arguments with a lot of holes, your opponents can easily break them down. But really, I think when you get to more high-level rounds, what wins you in rounds is kind of your speaking skills and the strategic decisions you make in a round for example, you start out with a ton of arguments. And by the end of the round, you’re really only going all in on one argument because the speeches get shorter by the end of the round. So you choose which argument has like the least amount of defense on it and you really hone in and you tell a judge. This argument is the most important argument in the round because it has the biggest impact it affects the most amount of people. If this argument happens, it means that all of their arguments happened to so it’s being able to articulate that and why your argument matters the most is is really what wins debate rounds, I would say.

Raya: Thank you all for listening to this first episode of this podcast, tune in next week to hear the second episode of the podcast where we will talking about the gender inequities in debate.