FLHS hosts 24-team debate tournament

High school students dressed for success filled the Forest Lake High School cafeteria between debate sessions on Saturday, Nov. 10. The Flake Stakes tournament drew schools from the Twin Cities area plus Grand Rapids, Brainerd, and Cannon Falls.

Maple Grove High School was the Sweepstakes winner at this year’s Flake Stakes debate tournament held at Forest Lake High School on Saturday, Nov. 10.

The Forest Lake debate team placed in the top five schools.

Schools attending were Andover, Anoka, Apple Valley, Blaine, Brainerd, Cannon Falls, Champlin Park, Chanhassen, Coon Rapids, Eagan, Eastview, Forest Lake, Grand Rapids, Lakeville, Mahtomedi, Maple Grove, Nova Academy, Cottage Grove, Province Academy, Robbinsdale, St. Francis, St. Michael-Albertville, St. Paul Academy and Wayzata.

Lincoln–Douglas Debate

Named for the 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas that focused on slavery, this competition emphasizes logic, ethical values, and philosophy.

The affirmative debater seeks to prove the resolution true. The negative debater seeks to prove the affirmative wrong or the resolution false. The two take turns speaking, with each stage timed.

Counting prep time, affirmative and negative speech, cross examinations and rebuttals, the total debate time is 48 minutes.

The topic for Saturday’s Lincoln–Douglas debate was “Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.”

Varsity winner was Collin Brown of Robbinsdale.

Jenni Dylkowski presented her case on the health care question against an opponent from Mahtomedi.

In the junior varsity competition, Forest Lake’s Max Hall took first place and Jenni Dylkowski took second.

Jason Shevik of Forest Lake took first place in the novice division.

Public Forum Debate

In this category the debaters argue a topic of national importance, typically one involving foreign or domestic policy.

Two-person teams alternate speeches for their side, either affirming or negating their topic.

The goal is to be persuasive by presenting logical, research-based arguments using everyday vocabulary (avoiding jargon) and not rushing.

The first speaker lays out the case for the resolution, the second speaker presents the case against.

Including crossfire sessions for asking and answering questions, summarizing the important issues, and giving final statements that explain why each team thinks they won, the debate takes 33 minutes.

The public forum debate topic was “Resolved: Current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security.”

Varsity winners were Andrew Urevig and Tanner Berris of Robbinsdale.

The team of seniors Andy Menne and Rebecca Piersdorf, both in their first year of debate, tackled the middle East policy question and came away with three wins.

The Forest Lake team of Rebecca Piersdorf and Andy Menne had three wins and two losses.

Congressional Debate

In this competition high school students emulate members of Congress by debating bills and resolutions.

Topics vary depending on the students. Before the event, each school submits mock legislation which is distributed to the participating teams. Teams research as many topics as possible in order to speak on both sides of every legislation.

Student committees decide which legislation will be debated and in what order; then proponents and opponents alternate making three-minute speeches.

Judges rank the speakers on their logic, organization, and eloquence. After the debate on a bill has been exhausted or the time is up, a vote is taken.

The total time for this competition is about six hours.

At the Flake Stakes tournament Saturday, there were nine topics, ranging from Middle-Eastern policy to domestic issues.

The overall winner was Bailey Rung from Blaine High School.

Forest Lake’s Cellea Osterbauer and Brandon Hilla were in the final congress.

for Next Year

The Forest Lake debate team has 13 members, and all except one are graduating seniors. To have a successful season next year, the team must recruit heavily.

Grades 9 to 12 can join the debate team. The participation fee is $210.

The team practices after school at the high school from September to mid-January.

English teacher Robyn Madson has been the debate coach for eight years. “I enjoy coaching debate largely because of the ‘aha’ moments, where a student suddenly grasps a new concept or finds that missing link in their argument,” Madson wrote for the 2012-2013 Ranger Activities Handbook, “and the end of the season, where students look back and realize how much they’ve grown.”

Current team members highly recommend the experience.  To succeed, students must argue persuasively and defend their positions.

This will pay off in adult life, not just for future lawyers and politicians but for anyone needing to make a case: someone interviewing for a job, a sales representative, a teacher, a small business owner.

This year’s team listed other reasons they’re glad they joined.

Senior Josh Mester and junior Garret Swanson, both in their second year, said the public forum debate teams write their own cases and then practice debating against each other so they can prepare rebuttals.

Garret Swanson said debate builds skills besides public speaking: effective research techniques, writing an argument, organizing one’s thoughts, reacting quickly. “It’s a great experience,” he said.

Andy Menne recommends students try debate even if it’s not their natural strength.

“I wanted to try something I would never do,” he said. “A friend who graduated said she regretted not doing something outside her comfort zone. I find public speaking intimidating. But now, it’s more fun instead of scary.”

Coach Madson said students who go out for debate like to argue. Other than that, they are a diverse group.

Debate practice is Monday through Thursday until 4:30 p.m., and debate tournaments take place on Saturdays.

Interested in joining next year’s team? The coach and team welcome visitors at practice.

Upcoming tournaments are the Birds of Prey Invitational at Robbinsdale on Saturday, Nov. 17, the JV/novice state tournament at Eagan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and the Blake High School Holiday Tournament on Dec. 14 and 15 at the  Minneapolis Hyatt.

The sectional and state meets take place in January.

Some debaters also participate in speech. The seasons overlap, but because speech practices are individual meetings with a coach, they can occur at any time of day, Piersdorf said.

Speech, also open to grades 9 to 12, runs from December to April and costs $210 to participate.

Events include dramatic interpretation, original oratory and storytelling.

The speech team will have an informational meeting after school on Tuesday, Nov. 13.