Arguing to the Top

By Jissele Wright

Entering their fourth tournament this weekend, the Speech and Debate team continue to  collect points toward Texas Forensic Association State Qualification. These points aid the team in reaching their goal of Nationals this summer.

“I don’t think we shoot for any particular accolade, I don’t think that we shoot for qualifying for any particular tournament,”  Debate Coach Christopher Mifflin said. “I think trophies are great, they’re always an indication for the most part that we’re doing something right, but there’s all these other little things that mean way more to me.”

Although the goal of the team is to make nationals and bring home a trophy, Mifflin believes that speech and debate mean more than that. He hopes students learn and expand from their experience as a debater.

“There are so many things as an educator that I want them to take away from debate,” Mifflin said. “Debate is really hard. You stand up by another individual and you debate for an hour, you walk out of that round, and one of you walks out a winner and the other walks out a loser and there’s no getting around that. You are competing with other people for most of the things you want in this world, whether it be college spots, jobs, that cute boy that you spotted in the cafeteria, or whatever.”

His students agree that debate is much more than an extracurricular. Seniors John Thomas and Samantha Luckey say they’ve learned to take constructive criticism and how to speak in front of others.

“My first speech was 30 seconds long,” Luckey said. “It was embarrassing but I’ve gotten better. Since it’s my second year in debate my goal was to make it to semi-finals which I just did with my partner [Senior Andrew Adames]. I want to get to finals next competition.”

While speech and debate may seem simple enough to most people, the process requires endless research, team work, and making up your opinion on the chosen topics.

“I form outlines of speeches for the affirmative or negative,” Thomas said. “We have 30 different topics that we choose based on what people want to hear. You’re trying to figure out what people would want to talk about rather then what you want to talk about.”

When the debaters complete the research they’re alone for the actual event. Individuality plays a role into the identity of a debater. Students often argue their opinion solo and must go into the event confident that they’re right.

“After a while you get used to speaking in front of people but criticism is hard because you always want to believe you’re right,” Thomas said. “No matter what, affirmative or negative, you have to believe you’re right.”

Other characteristics that debaters should possess include being a hard worker, the ability to admit that they made a mistake, modesty, and perseverance.

“You always want go after the things you want in life,” Mifflin said. “But try and try as you may, sometimes its not going to happen for you and you can either pout about it and complain and say the world is unfair – which sometimes debaters do after they lose ’cause none of them ever think they lose a round – or you can say alright I clearly did something wrong ,what was it and what am I going to do to make sure that never happens again, that I come out stronger from this experience.”

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