Debate team to compete in State Tournament at State Capitol

When someone says the word “Capitol,” the first thought that comes to mind is typically about government. Now it will be known for BSM’s debate team as it heads to the Capitol this year to participate in a congressional debate tournament on November 22.

Although smiling while under while under fire or just yelling “wrong” throughout the entire debate are common conceptions of congressional debate, this is not the case. “In this form of debate… several different topics are discussed such as different pieces of legislation or laws that have to be voted on throughout the debate,” senior debate captain Josie Ross said.

In this debate tournament, the students will act as if they are a part of Congress. “We are going to participate in a congressional debate tournament, where you essentially act as Congress and decide to a affirm or pass certain legislature,” junior Charlie Kraemer said.

Even before going to the Capitol, the first issue each school addresses is deciding on legislation to propose at the debate. “Before the tournament we write potential laws to be discussed during the debate and the school chooses which laws will be discussed,” Kraemer said.

Then the students participating are separated into chambers, smaller groups in which those students will debate with each other. There is an elected moderator or presiding officer to oversee the debate. Each side will go back and forth talking about their side and bring forth people to give speeches with evidence of why the law should be affirmed or negated. This type of debate is free form and unstructured.

“There will be a large group of kids, split into chambers such as Congress and Senate, with about 20 students in each chamber, but it depends on how many students sign up. Then at the beginning of each part of chamber you elect a Presiding Officer, the person who will run the debate, [and] then we vote about a way to go about the debate, [such as] which piece of legislation should go first,” Ross said.

Once a presiding officer is elected, the chamber will vote on the order in which the laws will be discussed. Then the presiding officer will begin the debate about the first topic. “In the first piece of legislation, someone gives an authorship speech, which means the legislation was brought up by their school, then go back and forth with different people giving speeches and being called to question until the arguments are the same, and then it will go to a nal vote,” Ross said.

I’m really excited because it a good way to finish my debate career. It is the biggest place we have ever debated at and it makes us feel like actual legislators.

— Josie Ross

There are many different schools participating in the congressional debate at the Capitol, and each school will bring different pieces of legislation for both domestic and international policies. The debate team at BSM has been discussing different topics. “The team feels passionate about marijuana laws and if it should it be legalized or not and we have a lot of evidence for the debate,” Ross said.

As the first topic comes to a close, there is a final vote, then the chamber moves on to the next topic and continues on with the debate. Each topic brought up will have different people coming up to speak about the topic and whether to affirm or negate the law, but the students don’t necessarily win based on the popular vote. “We win the round individually based on how well you give your speeches,” Ross said.

Given this experience, it will take time to prepare speeches for some possible topics. “I typically gather up a lot of evidence and give my speeches extemporaneously – this allows me to adapt my speeches to directly attack my opponent’s main arguments,” senior Colby Clinton said.

This event is the biggest platform that the team has debated for and is a great opportunity to further their debate career.

Preparing for the congressional debate will take practice and lots of hard work. “I’m really excited because it a good way to finish my debate career. It is the biggest place we have ever debated at and it makes us feel like actual legislators,” Ross said.