Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said: “I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone to just sit there and agree with me.” Thatcher’s quote describes exactly why debate is such an enriching extra-curricular activity at School Without Walls. Debate offers students an opportunity to articulate their thoughts about controversial issues and to verbally spar with rivals from other schools. Debate is also an intellectually stimulating activity, promoting good research skills as well as critical thinking. Indeed, it has been said that, “debate is the gladiatorial combat of the intellect.” Participation in debate leads to trophies, medals, plaques, monetary awards, as well as personal fulfillment. For these reasons, and many others, debate is one of the most important clubs at Walls.
In January, Walls’ debaters participated in two events: the Washington Catholic Forensic League (WACFL) tournament and the annual Omega Psi Phi competition. Of 50 WACFL teams, the Walls team of Nathan Ausubel and Brett Isaacs won 1st place in the junior varsity division and advanced to the varsity division. Jacob Ausubel and Adrian Sohn won 10th place, and Taiwo Dosunmu and Mahler Revsine won 20th place. Two Walls teams participated in the Omega Psi Phi annual debate, which took place on January 25th at George Washington University’s Funger Hall. Ay Okuleye and Max Segal won 3rd place and each earned $75 cash prizes; and Brett Isaacs and Elena Burger won 4th place and earned $50 cash prizes. Elena and Ay won the 1st and 3rd place speakers awards, along with $100 and $50 prizes, respectively. Coach Joan Hoyte won the 1st place coach award and received a $100 prize.
March was a busy month for Walls’ debates. They participated in the WACFL’s 2-day Metrofinals tournament, held at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia, on March 7th and March 8th. The debate topic was “Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.” Jacob Ausubel and Elena Burger won the 3rd place junior varsity team award. Consequently, Jacob will advance to the varsity division next school year (Elena is graduating from Walls). Nathan Ausubel and Brett Isaacs won 9th place team in the varsity division. Walls students Jacob Ausubel, Nathan Ausubel, Brett Isaacs, Will Warren, and Jonathan Wood received “The Eleanor E. Wright Spirit of Competition Award” and Walls’ entire debate program also received special recognition for finishing the 2013-14 school year with the 4th highest winning record in WACFL. All of these awards are amazing, considering that 2013-14 was Walls’ first school year competing in the WACFL league, debated in the public forum format, or competed against schools such as Thomas Jefferson and Walt Whitman.
On March 15th, Walls’ debaters competed in two other competitions simultaneously. Jacob and Nathan Ausubel competed in the American Legion Oratorical Contest at the Scottish Rite Temple. Jacob’s speech, entitled “Jury Duty: Race, Gender, and the Constitution,” focused on the link between the law and psychological biases about gender and race in a jury pool. Meanwhile, Nathan’s speech emphasized the constitutionality of the military draft. Nathan won the 3rd place award as well as a $150 prize. This competition was challenging. The contest required students to not only recite their main 8-10 minute speech from memory, but also required contestants to discuss one of four constitutional amendments.
Concurrently, Ramella and Jonathan competed in a DC Urban Debate League competition about the value of single-gender schools. Ramella and Jonathan performed very well, winning the four debate rounds and receiving the 4th place team award and the 1st place school award.
Walls is very fortunate to have a fabulous debate coaching team, led by Joan Hoyte and supported by Casey Carlin and Neil McCray. These individuals worked tirelessly to ensure the success of Walls’ club throughout the year.
Walls’ debate club welcomes new members at any time. If you like trophies, medals, plaques, monetary awards, or just the thrill of “gladiatorial combat,” feel free to attend a debate meeting. The club meets on Tuesday mornings at 7:30 a.m., and Friday at lunchtime in the library. At the moment, Walls’ debaters are preparing for a May debate focusing on the conflict between economic and environmental development in India. For more information about debate, contact club presidents Taiwo Dosunmu and Brett Isaacs or club secretary Jacob Ausubel.
– Jacob Ausubel, Club Secretary