PHC’s forensics program is the best in the nation, recruiting talent from high school students in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA) through forensics scholarships and leading moot court teams to victory at National Championships no fewer than 12 times since 2005. Last month, eight teams in PHC’s Moot Court Program pitted themselves against high-ranking schools like Colorado Christian University in the Moot Court Nationals.
But what is it like to compete with the best forensics program in the United States?
Juniors Adam Rauhauser and Joshua Schumacher were both ecstatic about their chance to compete at elite levels against the toughest teams in the nation.
“I was really happy,” said Rauhauser. “I imagine it’s what people who are really good at athletics feel like—there’s a certain feeling you get sometimes when you’re just really into it. It’s a lot of fun.” At a school like PHC where forensics dominates much of the academic scene as many students study pre-law courses, Rauhauser feels the pressure to be articulate in a world of fast-talking future lawyers. He's thinking about the future.
The pressure was even more intense as it was Rauhauser’s first real moot court activity against other top teams—ever. Last fall, he competed in PHC’s intramural moot court tournament hoping to get promoted to varsity, and even go on to Nationals. “[PHC Founder] Dr. Farris was the judge and . . . we were like this is not gonna be easy.” Turns out it wasn’t. He and his partner were knocked out in the first round. But that didn’t stop Rauhauser.
He was paired up instead with classmate Schumaker by moot court coach and PHC alum Peter Kamikawiwoole. Neither Rauhauser nor Schumacher knew each other well, but when they began practicing together their debating styles and compatibility began to take shape. “I get very nervous,” Rauhauser said, “basically through the whole [debate] process, I’m just a bundle of nerves. But Josh is never nervous. It’s very impressive to me; he’s very calm about it.” According to Rauhauser, at the end of almost every moot court round, the judges give encouraging feedback for Schumacher’s conversational style of debate. “I’ve yet to meet anybody that’s joyfully doing [forensics],” Rauhauser laughed. “But Josh’s big thing is always: ‘we need to be the team that has the most fun today.’”
This year, Moot Court Nationals looked a lot different for every competitor. The American Moot Court Association (AMCA) hosted a virtual platform for Nationals, Zooming in 100 teams and hundreds more judges in an effort to navigate pandemic restrictions. While it was an unwelcome and confusing shift for many who had grown accustomed to participating in person, Rauhauser admitted that he was relieved to compete online. “I get more nervous speaking in front of actual people than in front of the computer,” he said. “I like the distance that it gives me; I feel like it makes me a better speaker.”
However, technology being what it is, there were a few stressful hiccups on the road to Nationals. Rauhauser once got kicked out of a Zoom competition in the middle of a round for no reason. “I can’t tell you the amount of nervousness I had just trying to get back into the Zoom room,” he recalled. During a judge’s feedback, his computer died—“It popped and it went black and that was it.”
But for Rauhauser, the stress from technology didn’t amount to the type of stress he felt speaking publicly. “[Technology] gives you control of your environment that standing at a lectern in some foreign college somewhere doesn’t,” he said. In addition, some prominent judges living across the globe could participate in Nationals that otherwise would not have, if not for Zoom.
Moot court is a great way to meet interesting, legal figures as well as honing your own skills as an articulate speaker. “It’s a fun way to learn about constitutional law,” said Rauhauser. “I’ve always wanted to do it ever since I came to PHC.” Patrick Henry’s emphasis on its forensics programs inspires students to both enjoy debate and learn about America’s foundations through teamwork. Consistently competing at a national level, PHC strives to equip students with the skills to speak and lead well for God’s glory.
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