Debate team takes on virtual competitions


Veronica Quinn

Debate team meets via Zoom to prepare for upcoming competition.

Emilia Tutun, Sports Editor

As the WHS Debate team has been competing virtually via Zoom for their competitions, they continue to train, practice, and strategize for future debates. So far, the Debate team has competed in their first tournament over the MLK weekend and is now preparing for the next competition at Harvard. 

Senior co-captain Jackie Liu explained the debate forum WHS takes part in. 

“The type of debate we do is called Public Forum. Each month, the National Speech and Debate Association, or NSDA, releases a new topic. So every month, debaters research and write cases in a completely new area,” Liu said. 

For their first tournament, the Debate team prepared a case about whether the NSA should end its surveillance of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. Liu described the results and procedure of taking part in their first tournament. 

“Twelve students took part, and for most of them, this was their first tournament ever, which is super exciting. There were six rounds in a round-robin format spread over two days,” Liu explained. “No Weston teams moved on to the elimination rounds, but every team won at least one round-robin round, which is still super impressive. Attending a tournament is a tremendous step and a lot of work, so I applaud everyone who went.” 

For each competition, like their first one over MLK weekend, senior co-captains Liu and Neil Malur help their team prepare in a variety of ways. 

“Neil and I create curriculum, coach practices, and basically serve as the teachers. We present in-depth analyses of debate components and strategies, teach about broader topics like economics and international relations, [and] help members prepare for competitions by reviewing their cases and giving advice,” Liu said. “[We] practice every week, [and] during practices we present lectures on debate components and strategy, analyze the month’s topic and conduct drills. Soon, we hope to conduct mock debates.”

Not only this, Liu pointed out that the Debate team is actually self-taught.

“While a lot of debate teams have hired coaches, we don’t. I actually learned how to debate via YouTube,” Liu said. 

Although the WHS Debate team does not have a coach, their team still benefits from Liu and Malur’s training.

“During our meetings, they help us by going over strategy and tactics to use for competitions. [This] helps us gain points from the judges, and also helps us learn how to build strong cases,” freshman Sarah Lennox said. 

Like Lennox who has improved her debate skills, freshman Chloe Zhong has also benefited from Liu and Malur’s teachings.  

“Debate has been fun and relevant. I like how we not only learn about the topics at hand, but we also learn how to speak, how to adapt, etc., as well as basic economic concepts and ways to think logically,” Zhong said. “To anyone who is considering it, you should consider joining debate! It really changes how you see the world.” 

Liu emphasizes why debate is an important skill necessary for expanding knowledge beyond the curriculum in school, and how students should consider joining the team. 

“Debate provides exposure to areas not usually covered in-depth at school, [teaches] you how to learn, [and] to communicate eloquently and compellingly. The research and critical-thinking skills you gain truly equip you with the ability to inform yourself as a citizen of the world” Liu said. “So, if you want to increase your knowledge about rent control market distortions or Chinese infrastructure investment in Africa, or just win more arguments, I highly recommend you join us.”