Debate leaders emerge in new school year

Esther Hong, Staff Writer

The loss of a permanent sponsor has presented the debate team with challenges, causing team members to step up and become leaders. After having been the sponsor for many years, Assistant School Administrator Daniel McKenna stepped down as a result of a promotion no longer allowing him to maintain sponsorship of the team. The debate team has recently had Mr. Young, the head of the Independent Studies Program, step up to permanently sponsor the club. As a result, team senior captains Anna Li, Rohin Shah, Saatvik Soma, Saraansh Wadkar, and Megan Zeng have taken the initiative to lead the team and are starting to assume roles of leadership during these times.


“The team captains have put a lot of effort into preparing stuff for meetings and practices,” says senior Emma Poch who has been on the team for four years. 


The debate team is currently almost entirely run by students and the roles of the captains include analyzing topics, leading drills having to do with public speaking, teaching new members the basics of debate, and coordinating the sign ups for competitions — all roles that McKenna had previously assumed. 


“A new sponsor won’t have the same experience that Mr. McKenna had with debate, so a lot of the burden to teach new students falls on the captains and returning members,” said senior team captain Saatvik Soma. 


Nevertheless, the senior captains are putting a lot of time and energy into preparing the team and ensuring that they can continue to do well and be successful during competitions. During the meetings run by the captains, mock debates are held in order to fix holes in arguments as well as drills that help members develop argumentation and refutation skills.


Along with the changes in sponsor and student roles, a 40 member limit was put on the team. There was a tryout process in order to get accepted. The captains held these tryouts and new students were required to argue either side of a given argument with the evidence provided in order to test speaking skills and ability to think outside the box. The captains then scored students on a scale of one to five in different categories. The students with the highest scores were admitted to the team. For current members, those with low attendance to the meetings in the last year were cut. However, some of the captains disagree with this new policy. 


“The limit on members forced us to make the choice between taking students who already have developed debate skills, and would probably be able to perform best in competitions, or take promising students who we think will have the ability to develop into high level debaters,” said Soma. 


The restrictions placed caused the team to have to take those who were already high level debaters, meaning those who may have been able to develop over the years would not be given the opportunities to do so.