Joshna Iyengar

The debate team smiles for a group photo after an afternoon practice in October.

Debate team outlines goals for school year

Climate change. Health care. Immigration. These are only a few of the world conflicts that the new WHS debate team will delve into during their meetings and competitions this year. The debate team’s goal is to open up a new community for people who are interested in expanding their knowledge on a variety of topics.

The team, which boasts a membership of over 50 students, is led by several students including sophomores Ben Chen, Joshna Iyengar, Kimya Jalinous, Jackie Liu and Neil Malur as well as juniors John Lian, Kevin Ma, and Victoria Qian.

According to Latin teacher Veronica Quinn, who is the debate team’s faculty advisor, several students who wanted to start a competitive debate team all converged to form a larger leadership group.

“Many students wanted some kind of after-school time dedicated to debate. Two groups of students, a group of sophomores and a group of juniors, emailed me and spoke to me about starting what they called a ‘debate team’ to participate in nationally and regionally run debate competitions,” Quinn said. “Once these two groups heard about each other, they got in touch and joined forces to create a debate team.”

While previous attempts to create the team had failed due to a lack of an advisor, Quinn’s presence allowed the team to successfully start holding meetings.

“The teacher who advised [a smaller predecessor of the team] had left, so multiple students, myself included, sought to find an advisor for the next year without any success,” Lian said. “Ms. Quinn, who just joined WHS this year, was able to help us start the team and devoted time to help us host it, which we are very thankful for.”

During meetings, which occur after school on Mondays, the team provides instruction to those new to debate as well as preparing more advanced students for competitions.

“Although most people are somewhat experienced with public speaking and making logical arguments, there’s still a format for debate that we need to teach, called public forum,” Iyengar said.

According to Chen, the team decided to choose the public forum debate style, comprised of several brief segments of argumentation, because of its accessibility to those with varying levels of experience.

“Public forum pits two teams of two against each other. This form of debate is most accessible to those who aren’t experienced,” he said.

Malur said that the team plans to join two competitive leagues comprised of high school debate teams across the state and the country.

“We’re planning on having the team compete this year in NSDA [National Speech and Debate Association] and MSDL [Massachusetts Speech and Debate League] over the course of the year,” Malur said. “We’ll be debating with schools from across the country in the national circuit as well as most Massachusetts schools in the local circuits.”

Iyengar, who is new to WHS this year, said that although her previous experience with debate is limited, her friendship with debaters at her old school spurred her to start the WHS team.

“I don’t have much experience. I did some debate in middle school [in New Jersey], and all my friends in high school did it and I would always listen in to what they were saying. I really regret not doing debate at my old school, which is why I really wanted to start it here,” Iyengar said.

Malur also emphasized the importance of debate in everyday life, adding that the team is willing to aid those who are completely new to debate. The team welcomes those of any level of commitment, and each individual member determines their degree of involvement.

“There are always two sides to every issue, and debate really reinforces that by forcing you to debate both sides well and examine the real consequences of decisions in the world,” Malur said. “Debate is helpful in most aspects of your life and actually prepares you for making informed choices in the real world, and we accept people of every skill level.”

New members can still join the debate team, which meets every Monday in room 206 between 3:15 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.

Joshna Iyengar
Freshmen Anna Lian and Megan Malur prepare for a debate.
Joshna Iyengar
Members of the debate team outline arguments for a round.


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