Fifth Annual Debate Night at MHS

The Speech and Debate Team answering questions from the audience after Debate Night. Photo by Julie Yu.

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The Speech and Debate Team hosted their 5th Annual Debate Night on March 26, 2019. The event featured two debates, three original Poetry Readings, two Declamations, and two non-original Poetry Readings.

The team has been working on their debates and speeches for the past roughly three months according to Kurtis Sheer, one of the coaches of the Speech and Debate Team.

Patrick Finnegan, one of the coaches of the Speech and Debate Team, stated that the format of the debates was created by the students of the Speech and Debate Team. “Usually when [the students are] doing congressional debate or any of the other events at a meet it will not be the same format.” Finnegan elaborated that the debates between two sides will not always have one side speaking and then passing it onto the next side and repeating that cycle.

Finnegan explained that at a lot of the meets that the team attends they are allowed to have notes, which is why most of the students either memorized information or utilized their notes during the debates. In those notes students will have an opening and closing statement prepared and often times “graphic organizers or just lists of how they are going to go about the argument,” said Finnegan.

As coach, Finnegan’s job is to “help people with preparing for debates or speeches for meet on a more individual level.” Sheer added that his job is to “advise, and to give constructive feedback to all of [their] participants.”

As a team, they brainstormed 20 different potential topics they could debate about. The team then voted on the top ten ideas from the original list and continued to narrow the list down even more until they were left with two different topics. Sheer explained that the team “wanted to do one that was more political, which was the minimum wage one, and [they] wanted to do one that was more cultural and social, like art one.” After finalizing the two debates topics,  the team gave everyone a chance to participate in a debate they wanted to, which was how they assigned different people to each debate.

During a debate, each side (pro and con) has two minutes to give the opening statement they have prepared. Following the opening speeches, the moderators ask a series of questions in which both both the pro and con side has to answer using their notes and research they got before hand. Afterwards, there is five minutes of  the unmoderated debate, where both sides take turns countering the opposing side and supporting their own side in the argument. Concluding their debate, the two sides have two minutes each to give their closing speeches.

The first debate of the night was centered on separation of art v. artist. In the debate, the debaters discussed topics like mediums, preservation of art, retribution of art, and the relationship between consumer and creator were discussed.

On the pro side, senior Felix Li and freshman James Holland argued that art should be separated from the artist. Li expressed that he specifically chose to participate in the art debate because he was personally fascinated by the topic and “wanted a reason to do [his] personal research,” and come up with his own opinion. He first started doing preliminary research a couple weeks before Debate Night. He and his partner, Holland, discussed about points that they felt were relevant and necessary to include in their argument. They also reviewed the points that the opposing side would bring up and “how [they] were going to counter them.” Li focused a lot on “updating [himself] with relevant news that connected to the argument like the R. Kelly case.”

While on the con side, senior Abhishek Rana and junior Jihane El Balaoui argued that art should not be separated from the original artist. El Balaoui expressed that she had never participated in a debate before, and this was her first time. She explained that her and Rana “researched the pros and cons of [their] argument,” and also tried to look for “studies and statistical data to use as a supporting evidence.”

The second debate of the night was about raising the minimum wage in America. During the debate topics like prices of goods, inflation, income inequality, outsourcing jobs to foreign nations, and living wage were brought up. On the pro side, Rana and freshman Alain Joseph argued that minimum wage should be raised. While on the con side, sophomores Hossam Braer and Mason Burne argued that minimum wage should not be raised.

In between the two debates, juniors Donaita Anglades and Rasmee Ky performed declamation pieces, while freshman Sarah Oliveira and junior Sara Zakaria performed poetry readings. Ky recited  “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, which was a TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal. She explained that the TED Talk revealed that stress is not actually harmful to our health “as long as [we] believe it isn't harmful.” Throughout the piece it also gives tips for stress management, such as reaching out to others under stress.

She explained that she had first come across the piece when she was searching through TED Talks, since they were the most common type of text for Declamation. Ky stated that she really enjoyed the TED Talk because “taught [her] a lot of useful information that improved [her] everyday life.” Ky believed that it would be the perfect piece for a competitive setting, since it “could hold [the] audience's attention from the strength of the writing alone.” Given the length of the piece, Ky had to cut it down to 10 minutes of text. One thing that stuck out to her about this piece was how the original speaker had lots of moments of “direct audience interaction and interesting body language which could make [her] performance stand out in competition.”

The Speech and Debate Team was able to prepare and rehearse the Friday and Monday before Debate Night. Despite the fact that Debate Night is the only event that the team hosts at Malden High, they do travel around the state of Massachusetts to attend meets at different schools.

Julie Yu

Julie Yu is a junior at Malden High School, and has been a part of the Blue and Gold since her freshman year. As she spoke about the Journalism class, she described it as an “amazing experience” because she is surrounded by “beautiful people who are sweet, understanding of [their] peers, and of situations [they] may be faced with.” Yu spoke about how she admires that Journalism “does not embody the traditional essay or assignment from an english class,” but instead allows writers to be creative and write about a topic they enjoy. However, as a junior, the stress and responsibilities of becoming a senior are on the horizon. When asked about what she was most afraid of once she becomes a senior next year, she responded with “Print.” She is worried by the small amount of seniors there will be next year on the Print team to help out with such a big task but even with her worries, she is reassured by the amazing friends and relationships she has built throughout the years.

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