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Home > Fall Debate Season Kicks Off

Fall Debate Season Kicks Off

October 3rd, 2007

By Samantha Gebert

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

Conquering the “Debate Stigma:” Debaters look forward to a new semester

Nathanael Yellis, Debate Coach

As flocks of freshmen and new debaters join the PHC debate team this semester, the team is looking forward to some significant upgrades: the school has joined a new league; meeting structure has been re-tooled; and an inaugu­ral PHC intramural tournament has revived interest in the PHC “sport.” Also, Dr. Tallmon, the new Rhetoric professor, will also serve as faculty advisor for the team, allowing debaters to receive academic credit for the first time.

Fresh­men make up about one-third of the team this semester, many of whom attended PHC’s debate camps or debated in National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA). This year, they and the rest of the team will bene­fit from a new league, the National Forensics Association (NFA), which the College has joined to accommo­date the growth in membership. Senior Isaiah Mc­Peak serves as head coach. Under him, senior Kawika Vellalos coaches parliamentary debate; Nathanael Yellis, senior, coaches the National Educational Debate Association (NEDA) league; and sophomore Kyndra Jamison coaches the new NFA league.

Debate meetings are a lot of fun this year, Rachel Blum, who speaks in two debate leagues and in moot court, said. Each meet­ing, students gather for a short, “Yellis-style” presentation, which communicates clear expecta­tions and guidelines, tailored to accommodate the attention span of even an eight-year-old. The team then splits into break-out groups led by experienced de­baters. These groups involve a lot of individual interaction, and debaters can more easily brainstorm, practice, and come up with arguments together.

“The new structure has vastly improved the effectiveness and fun factor of meetings,” Blum said. “Debate’s very organized now, whereas before it was more of a floating institution passing from leader to leader.”

However, the new influx of debaters makes it necessary for PHC to join a new debate league, the NFA. Spearhead­ed by Jamison, participation in this bigger league will give PHC more credibility in the de­bate world, though winning will be more difficult. Because the league is more intense, breaking into out-rounds will be an ac­complishment.

Another way the debate team has been coping with the new arrivals was the new intramural tournament in late September. Not only did the tournament help weed out which of the 60 people could go to a 12-team tournament, but it “was an attempt to bring debate to campus in a non-confrontational, non-scary way,” Blum said. The tournament was simi­lar to parliamentary debate, with the topics—campus-related, or involving prominent current events—released 20 minutes prior to each round.

Blum said she has huge ex­pectations for this semester, and, with the continuing improve­ments to and evolution of the team, the future of debate looks promising.
“Still,” Blum commented, “I think the important thing here at PHC is that aca­demics remain the main focus for students, and extracurriculars are truly extra.”