Debate: The Clash of Skill, Wit, and Ideas
On a blistering hot Virginia weekend at the end of June, 80 home school students from across the nation gathered to test their debate skills against some of the toughest competition in the nation: each other. Each two-person team had to both defend and attack the topic for the year: Resolved: That the United States should substantially change the rules governing federal campaign finances. The national champions from last yearJanai Hess, 17, and Joseph Rose, 15successfully defended their title by winning the final round of the tournament on Saturday evening. Rose and Hess also took the top two speaker awards respectively.
On a 2-1 vote, the Hess/Rose team defeated the team that took second place, Thane Rhen, 17, and Chris Stollar, 16. Both teams hailed from the Clash Debate Club in San Jose, California. Hess and Rose won the votes of Christy Shipe, HSLDA national debate coordinator, and Ron Bratt, director of debate at Catholic University of America. But Rhen and Stollar succeeded in persuading Michael Farris, president and founder of HSLDA, to cast his vote in their favor. The three final round judges unanimously agreed that both teams did an excellent job and that it was difficult to decide who had won. Michael Farris said, I know that all three judges were very impressed with the quality of the debaters in the final round. It was a truly tough choice. But frankly, all of the rounds showed me that home school debate has advanced to very high level in only three years.
The California teams dominated the tournament this year, taking six of the top ten positions both for individual speakers and teams. And out of the 40 teams present at the national tournament, 11 were from California.
California debate coach Teresa Moon, who leads Communicators for Christ conferences around the country, shared her thoughts on the debate explosion in that state: I believe that leaders with a vision for the life-changing impact of debate skills in Christian young people, the desire to work together building one anothers skills as iron sharpens iron, and a willingness on the part of veteran debaters to come alongside newer students, have all contributed to the increasing popularity of home school debate in California.
California has seen a tremendous amount of growth in the past three years, said Christy Shipe. I believe its a sign of what will happen in other states. Already, debate is exploding in areas like Ohio and Michigan, and more states will follow.
This year, several states sent teams to the national tournament for the first time. Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania held HSLDA national tournament qualifiers for the first time.
Its exciting to see so many new states involved in debate. Next year promises to bring even more involvement from areas of the country that have never been involved in debate before, said Christy Shipe. Our goal is to eventually bring teams from every state in the union to the national tournament.
The topic for next year should inspire home school students to enter the debate arena for the first time if they havent already, Shipe said. Next years topic is: Resolved: That the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution should be repealed. HSLDA has already made a standing topicality ruling regarding this topic, stating: An affirmative plan which imposes any form of income tax is not topical.
Michael Farris gave the reasoning behind the new topic: We adopted this topic with the hope that it would give students the opportunity to delve deeply into an issue that is likely to dominate the public square in the next five years. It also gives debaters a chance to practice a new debate skill. Rather than defending the status quo, a negative team has the option of introducing a counter-plan calling for a flat tax system, for example. We will probably see many rounds of debate where the advantages and disadvantages of a national sales tax is sharply contrasted with a flat tax. It will be a real education for all.
HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville served as a judge throughout the tournament and commented: This was the most exciting debate tournament yet. The debaters in the final rounds were operating at a level of skill that left meand the other judgesalmost breathless. We can hardly imagine what next year will be like! For more information about participating in the home school debate, call HSLDA at (540) 338-5600 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.