Photojournalism: Blake debate

Photojournalism: Blake debate

Mark Taylor, Contributing Writer

Blake’s debate team may be one of the most successful teams Blake has, however most students know little about it. On Saturday, November 8th I had the opportunity to attend one of Blake’s tournaments at Falcon Ridge Middle School in an attempt to learn more about the activity.

As I pulled into the parking lot, one of the first things I noticed was the attire of the students. Students sporting suits and dresses piled into the school in large numbers. I felt severely underdressed in my baggy sweatshirt and shorts. Upon entering the school, I noticed that everyone seemed to be gravitating towards the lunchroom. I followed the flow of the crowd until I arrived in the crowded cafeteria. Groups of students sat huddled around computers while talking furiously. In my overwhelmed state, I initially had trouble locating Blake’s team. I circled the lunchroom, looking over the shoulders of hordes of debaters in search of a familiar face. Finally after completing my first circle around the cafeteria I recognized a member of Blake’s team. I walked over to greet my fellow classmates, but received little more than a hello. Eventually I found the coach in charge, Sandy Berkowitz, and department chair Christine Saunders and introduced myself. After talking a little bit, Coach Berkowitz explained the position the students were currently in. The students had recently received their pairings, which told them information on who they would be going against in their rounds, which room they would be debating in, and which judge they would get. I was witnessing the last twenty minutes or so students would have before going into their rounds. This meant students were busy preparing their arguments and getting facts they would be using. As the start of the rounds came nearer, students began to make their way out of the lunchroom. I could feel the tension in the air. Coaches gave students their last words of encouragement and students were wishing each other luck as they headed to their designated rooms. It seemed as if in an instant all of the life and commotion of the school had disappeared.

Later, one of my friends would explain to me the details of rounds. Rounds begin with some prep time and then last about an hour. After prep time is over, debaters engage in ‘rigorous contestation; of one another’s arguments. Judges will then make their decision and award speaker points out of 30 which score individuals on their performance in terms of clarity, speaking, persuasiveness, etc. One of my friends on debate told me, “I get really stressed when I’m debating, especially during the times when a judge is deciding because your emotions are running high and you really want to win every debate. It’s probably the most stressed I’ve ever felt in my life, waiting for a decision in a really important round against a very good team.” Debaters can have as many as five rounds a day at any given tournament.

After going and witnessing a debate tournament myself, it was clear the students were under immense pressure. I was able to broaden my understanding of debate as an event and certainly gained a newfound respect for the debate team.