Students prepare for Debate National Qualifiers


Submitted by Tom Fones

On Dec. 9, twelve SPA students will go to Debate National Qualifiers.

Twelve SPA students will go to Debate National Qualifiers on Dec. 9 in hopes of qualifying for debate Nationals where the country’s best debaters compete. The students going were handpicked by the debate team’s coach, Tom Fones, based on their success and experience.

The students will be debating in one of two categories: Public Forum or Lincoln-Douglas.

In both formats, you argue both sides of the debate. The Lincoln Douglas format is based entirely off of philosophical frameworks, such as deontology. The public forum only has one framework, utilitarianism, providing a cost-benefit analysis. In public forum, whoever can prove that they do the most good for the most people wins the debate. In Lincoln Douglas, you have to prove that your side is morally right under your framework, and prove that your framework is the most moral, to begin with,” junior Oliva McCauley said.

Lincoln-Douglas was named for a series of debates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas had in 1858 when they ran against each other to represent Illinois in the Senate. The object of Public Forum is to convince an unbiased, possibly uninformed party, called the “citizen judge” that one’s side of the debate is more logical than the other.

“The main difference is that in PF, there are two teams of two people, while in LD there is only one person on each side. Additionally, PF tends to cover ‘hot topic’ issues in a way that is meant to be accessible for many people, while LD covers more philosophical issues, and is slightly more technical; the judges in LD usually have extensive experience in the activity, while judges in PF can be anyone from parents to debate coaches,” senior Adnan Askari Said.

Unlike Lincoln-Douglas debates, Public Forum involves multiple members on each team.

I like having a partner that I can rely on; that sense of complete trust and camaraderie is difficult to replicate,” Askari said.

Four SPA students will be participating in the Lincoln-Douglas format debates at National Qualifiers: Jack Guinan, Asher Sobotka, Gabriel Konar-Steenberg, and Sammy Ries, while eight students will be debating in pairs for Public Forum. The four pairs going to National Qualifiers are Sameer Bijwadia with Liam Will, Olivia McCauley with Kieran Singh, Kaia Larsen with Riley Will, and Adnan Askari with Ben Konstan.

“This month’s topic is Resolved: NCAA student athletes ought to be recognized as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Essentially, you debate whether or not NCAA athletes should be employed. I like this topic because unlike other previous topics, like the previous resolution on gun control, I’m not emotionally invested in it. As someone who doesn’t follow and doesn’t really care about sports, it is nice to be able to look at the topic logically and see both sides of the debate clearly without my vision clouded with personal bias,” McCauley said.

“The topic seems promising, but to be honest, I do not follow college athletics at all. I think it’s an important topic to discuss, but it is also one that I need to learn more about,” Askari said.

The debaters are working hard to prepare themselves for National Qualifiers.

“My partner [Ben Konstan] and I are meeting after school for a few hours every day this week and next week. We’ll spend that time reading up on the topic, writing cases, constructing block files (responses to arguments we might encounter), and discussing general strategy. We might even meet up with a few other schools to practice beforehand,” Askari said.