Debate Goes to States


Ethan Matthews, Clubs and Activities Editor

Menchville’s Debate Team, sponsored by Government teacher Arram Dreyer, worked their way up through various city and regional competitions to advance to the state competition on April 21 and 22. This marks the first year that Menchville’s Debate Team has advanced to state level.

The state competition was held at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. Senior Hunter Young and his partner, senior Dustin Zuniga, placed 3rd in public forum, while senior Alexis Capobianco placed 6th in the Lincoln-Douglas competition. Overall, the team tied for 7th place with Stafford High School and Princess Anne High School.

For Young and Zuniga, the topic of debate at state was whether the United States should increase their H1B1 visa quota, an issue concerning immigration to the United States. “I think I did pretty well, I did about the best I’ve ever done. There was one round that I got a little more aggravated and intense than I wanted to, but other than that I did well,” said Young.

As an experience, Young said that states was much more challenging than any other level of debate he has competed in because the people from northern Virginia are “insanely good at debate,” and the competition level at states is generally much higher than the local events. According to Young it was also a “ton of fun” and “a great learning experience.”

Debate in the Virginia High School League is divided into three types: Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas, and Student Congress. For Public Forum and Student Congress, the topic for student debate is changed monthly, while in Lincoln-Douglas the topic changes bi-monthly.

Senior Hunter Young said, “A lot of it is just putting in the work on your own, doing the research, preparing the speeches for what you need to do, and a lot of it just varies by what kind of debate you do. For public forum you have a partner, so it’s you and a partner that do it, but Lincoln-Douglas it’s just you and there is a different format and different structure for it as well.”

Young said debate is a learning and growing experience. “I’m learning about all these things that I didn’t know a whole lot about before, and I think that the impact it’s had on my ability to speak [publicly] has also been tremendous…just the difference between my first speech of debate and my speech at super-regionals a few weeks ago was a tremendous improvement, just because it’s so much practice speaking.”

The Menchville Debate Team begins preparing for tournaments in September.  Students prepare on their own by researching the topics they are given for each competition. For example, the first debate of the season was about Catalonian Independence, so the individuals spent hours searching the internet, and sometimes speaking to reputable sources to understand the issue.

Debate is an important skill to learn in our ever-growing world, where differing opinions on global and political issues can come to clash at any time. Whether it be through real-life conversation or through competition, the skills built through debate can be helpful in navigating public speaking and differing views.