DOBSON — The Surry County Schools County Debate Tournament is set to return a third year Friday in a new venue with approximately 100 middle school participants.
This year, the tourney is set to be held at Surry Community College from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Debate Coordinator Charlotte Hiatt said in previous years, space necessitated limiting the numbers of middle school students involved.
“Our participation has doubled. We are very excited to be in partnership with Surry Community College this year,” Hiatt said. “They have been awesome to allow us to us to use 20 of their rooms (and an auditorium) . We’re pretty much taking up their entire H Building.” She estimated between 25 to 30 judges have volunteered for the event. Some terminology will be changed this year to make the debate’s tone at a less intense level than a high school level tournament. A Lincoln-Douglas format, for instance, will be referred to as a pair debate.
Another change this year is students who place out and do not advance in the tournament go to high school student debate team workshops. There they are mentored on technique, forensics and watch and evaluate others as well as seeing the high school teams debate. Workshop teams will be from the Surry Early College and Surry Central.
According to Hiatt, pair debate can be compared to a nationally-televised debate, such as on the program ‘Crossfire’ in which the debaters argue a topic of national importance, typically one involving foreign or domestic policy as opposed to Lincoln-Douglas’ more philosophical debate, in terms a “common” person would understand. The name “Lincoln-Douglas” comes from a series of recorded debates that took place between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858.
Similar to policy debate, pair debate is conducted by teams of two people alternating speeches for their side, either for or against their topic. In contrast to policy and single debate, there is little focus on extreme speed, debate jargon or argumentation theory.
“Successful pair debaters must make persuasive and logical arguments in a manner that is accessible to a wide variety of audiences. Because of its strong relevance to the real-world and ability to develop life skills, pair debate has exploded in popularity since its introduction into high school debate by the National Forensic League,” Hiatt said. She also said a lot of debate interest has been spurred by students who want to make a difference in their community and the world.
She said the topic for pair debates is “Homework should be banned in schools” and the singles debate will center on “Middle schools should be in session year round.”
Hiatt explained singles debate asks students to explore arguments about abstract concepts, standards of behavior and competing visions of what kind of a world we should strive to create.
Congressional Debate is also known as student congress or legislative debate. Students will debate bills and resolutions. Before the event, each school submits mock legislation to each tournament. After the legislation has been compiled, it is distributed to each participating team. Each team attempts to research as many topics as possible, with the goal of being able to speak on both sides of every legislation.
At the beginning of each session, groups of students play the roles of congressional committees, deciding which legislation is to be debated and in what order. Legislation is debated through a series of speeches, alternating between affirmation and opposition to a given bill or resolution. After the chamber feels debate on a particular bill has been exhausted or the time on the bill has elapsed, participants vote on the bill.
Hiatt, who has been involved with all three events said she has seen students gain confidence from learning public speaking as well as learning they have a voice, which boosts self esteem, morale and fosters activism as citizens as well. Students interested in the debate program may contact their school principal for information.
“It’s amazing to see all they can do. It’s a neat thing to watch these kids handle themselves in what can be stressful situations. I just love seeing them get excited. They often dress to the nines,” Hiatt said. “They can’t wait to get here. They watch the brackets and cheer for their fellow team members. They support each other. A singles debater still takes pride in their whole team.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.