The great debaters
King's Debate Society surpasses Ivy League in first competition--by Angie Giannetti
On October 25, the King’s Debate Society traveled to Western Connecticut University for its first debate tournament not only of the year, but ever. There the team surpassed its wildest expectations.
Outranking teams from renowned universities such as Cornell, St. John's, The University of Virginia, Rochester University and Marist College, among many others, the King's team finished among the 16 best teams in the tournament and received the college’s first intercollegiate award since in 1999.
Debaters Pam Dodge and Matthias Clock, both sophomores, entered the competition with little experience in the weekend’s debate format: British Parliamentary Debate. In it, four teams of two people compete in each debate. Two of those teams are on the "government" side (agreeing with the motion), and two teams are on the opposition side (disagreeing with the motion). Twenty minutes prior to the debate, moderators assign each team its role and reveal the motion. The roles are opening government, closing government, opening opposition, and closing opposition.
During the speeches, the teams yield to opponents’ “points of information,” which allow teams to interrupt during an opponent’s speech and provide counterarguments.
Still, the style wasn’t completely foreign—King’s annual spring Interregnum debates are a variation of Parliamentary debate. “It is a more raucous, spirited kind of debate,” said Clock of the Parliamentary style. Debaters are judged on content and ideas more than style, but good delivery doesn’t hurt. “You have a wider range of weaponry,” said Clock. “Rhetorical devices are greatly encouraged.” Both Clock and Dodge said their idea-driven, King’s education helped in the team’s tournament success.
“The principles we learn in the classroom were all there,” Clock said, referring to the motions the teams debated. According to him, the team’s strong showing proves that King’s goal of becoming an elite school is not just a dream.
But it wasn’t just the team that gave a strong performance. Of the more than 90 debaters in the competition, Clock placed ninth overall in speaking. He credits the other Debate Society members who attended, Kristen Rudolph, Maria Laino, and Jonathan Irwin, for helping him adequately prepare for the topics. Dodge praised their efforts too: “They could have debated at this tournament. They were definitely up to par.”
Clock and Dodge hope the success continues this month, when the team travels to Binghamton, New York, for its next debate. Clock also hopes that the team’s early success will inspire curiosity and encourage other students to join.
A version of this story orginally appeared in the King's student newspaper The Student Voice. Angei Giannetti is a junior from Minnesota studying PP&E.
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