M-A Debate Club Lacks Support Necessary for Success

Lexi Lobdell

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In recent years the Debate Club has mainly consisted of a small group of dedicated students who engaged in lunch meetings and off-campus debates. Robbie Gordan, president of the club, expressed his concern regarding the lack of authority and sponsorship for Debate Club. He notes that while all other clubs have a volunteer sponsor, Debate Club has not found a dedicated leader.


In past years, the Debate Club was sponsored by a coach from San Francisco. Since he left, the team has not had a volunteer coach. They are currently looking for a teacher or parent to volunteer, but have not yet found one due to the  substantial time commitment. This job would mainly consist of weekend work as a typical competition requires members to be engaged from 7AM on Saturdays until 5PM on Sundays. Additionally, debate team members spend up to four hours per week in preparation for competitions. Unfortunately, not many teachers or parents have this much time to spare on weekends.


Without a coach, the team has struggled to maintain the level of commitment compared to previous years. Most students have other interests, activities, and sports commitments, so they tend to opt out of participation in debate tournaments. Robbie expressed concern that this is the main reason they have not been able to find a coach.  The coach’s job would consist of organizing weekend or lunch meetings, going to debates on the weekends and helping the teams prepare to be successful at the competitions. Ideally the coach could be a Stanford student debater; they “just need someone with more experience,” according to Robbie.


M-A’s debate club competes in parliamentary debate. This type of debate involves two students from two schools on opposing teams. They are assigned a topic of debate and their required stance about 20 minutes before competitive debating begins. Depending on the location of the debate, they may or may not have access to the internet. However, they can always use the information in their personal notes. It is vital to have a coach at this time to help prepare the argument. After the 20 minutes are up, they debate for five rounds over the course of two days; three on the first day and five on the second day.


A few weeks ago our M-A team went to the Stanford Invitational debate competition. Once there, it became apparent that the other teams had a “huge difference in preparation,” according to Gordan; the other teams had coaches and M-A’s did not. Many different schools traveled from all over California to compete in this prestigious debate. Robbie and his partner won three debates and lost two, which he considered “okay.” However, the other two pairs lost more debates than they won.


The optimal situation for the team would be for MA to sponsor a debate class. However, there are some issues with finding a teacher and developing a  debate class for credit. Robbie and his peers acknowledge that this would take a lot of work and consists of lot of variables, but it would be the best way to continue the debate program. If it is not feasible to create a debate class, the debate team hopes to increase funding in coming years. This year, the debate club is not funded, so those who are competing have to pay the fees to compete out of pocket. It is generally $100 per person per debate, which adds up quickly.


However, Principal Matthew Zito, expresses concern with the lack of participation and interest in debate club. While the debate members are M-A students, Mr. Zito has “interest in bringing the speech and debate club a little closer and more grounded at M-A.” Most of the competitions take place outside of M-A, and sometimes out of state, which has lead both students and staff to feel like it is not an M-A club.


 Mr. Zito has considered creating a speech and debate class in previous years, but has not, due to a lack of interest. His concern is that if taking debate “means sacrificing a science class, math class or another program or area that [a student] is passionate about,” they will not choose to take it. He worries that more students would take “an A.P. class like A.P. Art History or academic electives including Russian history and literature or gender studies” due to their “college competitiveness,” as opposed to a debate class.


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One Response to “M-A Debate Club Lacks Support Necessary for Success”

  1. eperrine on March 17th, 2014 10:47 pm

    Too bad about this, it seems like a great idea! Contrary to what Mr. Zito said, I thing taking a debate class would be a good boost to a college app.

M-A Debate Club Lacks Support Necessary for Success