West Hosts State Debate
March 31, 2017
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Over the weekend of March 10-12, Plano West hosted the Texas Forensics Association (TFA) State debate tournament, where students from across Texas competed in events such as Extemporaneous Informative Speaking, Prose Interpretation and Congressional Debate. West’s debate team put in weeks of preparation beforehand in order to excel at the competition.
“Because every topic for debate changes monthly, we do a ton of prep over the month,” junior Jason Zhang said. “Our coach usually sets a deadline about two weeks in advance when we have to submit our cases just to incentivize us to get working. Holistically, there’s a lot of preparation.”
Topics for debate competitions include a variety of subjects mainly focusing on economics, international relations and government, as well as global elections.
“We had a topic over the summer discussing if the benefits of the internet outweigh the harms of decreased personal privacy,” Zhang said. “The topic this month is if we should lift the embargo on Cuba. Most topics always talk about either governmental or economic policy.”
For debate members, ample research is necessary to prepare for such a prestigious competition. In the weeks leading up to competition, the students work together discussing current events and forming opinions.
“Preparation all comes down to research,” senior Ellen Wang said. “For my specific event, they give you a certain number to legislations, or topics, and you have to affirm or negate that topic. The more prep you do, the easier it is for you to come up with a speech on the spot.”
Three weeks before the state tournament, several members of West’s debate team competed at the Harvard National Forensics Tournament.
“It’s a pretty prestigious national tournament that teams from all over the country go to,” Zhang said. “About 350 teams total go and 8 teams from West attend.”
In addition to TFA State and the Harvard competition, there is an upcoming Tournament of Champions (TOC) and a district qualifier to go to nationals. The team’s performance in TFA State determines which national competitions they qualify for.
“There are two nationally ranked tournaments, the National Speech and Debate Tournament and the Tournament of Champions,” Zhang said. “Throughout the year the team goes to tournaments and tries to get the bid for other national championships.”
Recently, Wang and junior Mishan Kara both competed at TFA State and Wang placed second in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking. They both credit their love of people and their passion for debate as reasons for their success.
“My favorite part would be meeting the different people,” Wang said. “Whether you’re in the local or national circuit, there are a variety of people with different opinions and it’s fun getting to see how other people think.”
Debate can also increase global awareness about a variety of topics, which can allow students to hold higher-level conversations with others.
“I enjoy that debate allows me to learn and research about current events happening all around the world,” Kara said. “This allows me to have intellectual conversations and helps in other classes as well.”
Not only does debate aid in school, it allows students to develop personal pride in their speaking and debate abilities and teaches them how to stand up for their values.
“The best part about debate is learning how to speak up for something you believe in,” Wang said. “It’s not just about the research or the speaking itself. It’s about learning to use your voice.”