Willamette nurtures debate team.Byline: ANNE WILLIAMS The Register-Guard
Charlene Buystedt was an eighth-grader at Meadow View School a year ago when the Willamette High School Willamette High School is a school in Eugene, Oregon.
Willamette, or "Wil-Hi," is located in the Bethel-Danebo area of west Eugene, and is the only high school in the Bethel School District. forensics See computer forensics. team made a guest appearance at her school.
While the intense verbal sparring and high-level subject matter of policy debate left most of her classmates Classmates can refer to either:
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.
2. Archaic To capture. .
`I thought, `Whoa,' ' said Buystedt, 14, now a Willamette freshman. "I didn't know what to think, but I thought it looked like fun. I had aspirations of being a lawyer, and it really appealed to me."
The high school debate team has made an annual tradition of visiting the Bethel district's three middle schools, with the primary aim of recruiting up-and-comers such as Buystedt to keep the program viable.
It's been a winning strategy.
While other local high schools have relegated debate to an after-school club or phased it out altogether, Willamette in west Eugene has nurtured one of the strongest programs in the state. Its teams have often dominated the competition at regional match-ups, and this year a half-dozen Willamette students earned the coveted cov·et
v. cov·et·ed, cov·et·ing, cov·ets
1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's). See Synonyms at envy.
2. To wish for longingly. See Synonyms at desire. chance to compete in similar competitions at the national level. That's the most in the team's 36-year history, and the most among any of the 20 area competing teams this year.
"It's remarkable," said Rob Bingham, Willamette's debate coach for the past four years. "I've just got an amazingly great, talented and dedicated group of kids this year."
Among those are Billy Hatch and Terry Hatch, brothers two years apart who pair up for what is considered forensics' consummate high-octane event: cross-examination policy debate. At a regional event in Ashland last month, the boys qualified together for the national championship in June in Charlotte, N.C. Last week, they also qualified for the state tournament later this month.
"I'd say on average we probably spend 40 hours a week just preparing for debates outside of school," said Billy, a sophomore.
Also qualifying for the national championship were senior Evan Farr, in humorous interpretation Humorous Interpretation (often shortened to "Humorous Interp", "HI", or simply Humorous) is an event in National Forensic League (and NFL-related) high school forensics competitions. It consists of a piece from any published work, edited to fit within a 10 minute span. ; junior Robert Raack, in oratory and dual interpretation; senior Matt Stewart : For the Canadian comedian, see Matt Stewart (comedian). Matt Stewart (born August 31, 1979 in Columbus, Ohio) is an American football player who currently plays linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. , in humorous interpretation; and junior Nick Meyers, in Lincoln-Douglas debate This article is about a style of debate. For the historical debates, see Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.
Lincoln-Douglas debate, known by some previous debaters as value and extemporaneous speaking Extemporaneous speaking, also known as "Extemp," is a high school and college speech event in which students speak persuasively about current events. In Extemp, a speaker chooses a question out of three offered, then prepares for thirty minutes with the use of previously prepared .
On a recent afternoon in Bingham's class, the Hatch brothers practiced a cross-examination-style debate. To the uninitiated, it's a dizzying, esoteric spectacle that seems more befitting be·fit·ting
Appropriate; suitable; proper.
Adj. 1. a university lecture hall lecture hall n → sala de conferencias;
(UNIV) → aula
lecture hall lecture n → amphithéâtre m
than a high school classroom.
The topic, which is set each year by the National Forensic League The National Forensic League is one of two major U.S. national organizations which direct high school competitive speech events. (The other is the National Catholic Forensic League or NCFL.). The National Committee meets several times a year for rules revision. , was whether the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. should establish foreign policy significantly limiting the use of weapons of mass destruction Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and/or of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people. Weapons of mass destruction can be high explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, but exclude the means of transporting or .
Billy began, arguing that the United States should disarm and ban the use of all tactical nuclear weapons and codify codify to arrange and label a system of laws. a 1991-92 U.S.-Russia declaration. While his brother sat hunched over a nearby desk, furiously scribbling scrib·ble
v. scrib·bled, scrib·bling, scrib·bles
1. To write hurriedly without heed to legibility or style.
2. To cover with scribbles, doodles, or meaningless marks.
v. on a yellow legal pad, Billy quickly rattled off his points, backing them up with citations from articles and books.
After a brief and pointed cross-examination, it was Terry's turn. Speaking so quickly that he literally had to gasp for breaths between sentences, Terry argued that mere possession of nuclear weapons is immoral, and that only complete, unilateral disarmament will suffice.
Each segment - the arguments, the cross-examinations, the rebuttals - is strictly timed, which explains the rapid-fire pace. Students must be prepared to argue any side of the issue, regardless of their own opinions, and to adapt both their arguments and their style to the particular judges. Some judges prefer a slower delivery, for example, or they may have a conservative or liberal bent.
Cross-examination is also a favorite of Charlene Buystedt and her team partner, Crystal Stanford, 15.
"It's pretty complicated," said Stanford, who, as sophomore class vice president and a self-described member of the "preppy prep·py or prep·pie
n. pl. prep·pies Informal
1. A student or former student of a preparatory school.
2. A person whose manner and dress are deemed typical of traditional preparatory schools. " crowd, defies any stereotypes of nerdy debaters. "It's one of the more complicated forms of debate, and that's probably why I like it. You really have to think on your feet. You have to know your stuff and be able to get your arguments out quickly enough. It gives you a rush."
Billy Hatch, who aspires to be a Supreme Court justice, said he used to shake uncontrollably when he spoke in front of a group. But debate has done more for him than help ease the public speaking jitters jitters 'Butterflies' Psychology An episode of nervousness or anxiety that often precedes a public event; jitters is a type of performance anxiety which may affect actors in a stage production–stage fright or soloist musicians; it may respond to anxiolytics .
"Debate for me is more fundamentally important than anything else," he said. "I learn more from debate than I learn in any other class."
If it weren't for the Willamette debate program, he added, he probably would have sought a transfer to a Eugene district school for the International High School program.
Aside from a popular after-school club at South Eugene, Hatch would have found little in the way of forensics at other Eugene-Springfield high schools. North Eugene now has a debate class, but it's scheduled to be cut next year as part of a budget-driven, districtwide reduction in teaching staff.
"It's too bad, but the enrollment is teeny Teeny
1/16 or 0.0625 of one full point in price. Steenth. ," Principal Peter Tromba said, noting that only eight students are enrolled in the combined beginning and advanced class. Next year it will be offered as a club.
Sheldon has an after-school debate club, but it isn't much of a player in competitive circles. Churchill, Marist, Thurston and Springfield have nothing.
All the high schools had strong debate programs at one time, but they began fading soon after the 1990 passage of Measure 5, a property-tax limitation measure that placed control for school funding with the state Legislature.
"The Eugene area is a scandal," said Jim Copeland, executive secretary of the National Forensic League in Wisconsin. "How can you have a university town with all these academic children going to high schools and not offer one of the most academic activities?"
While national membership in the league has steadily grown, it has shrunk among schools in Oregon and a few other states, Copeland said.
Copeland called the Willamette program "one of the very finest in Oregon."
Willamette Principal Jim Jamieson credited Bingham and his predecessor, Jim Grant, with keeping interest in debate keen.
"You have to have a teacher that can excite kids, that can reach inside and turn on a switch inside some kids' minds," he said. "If I lost Rob Bingham, I couldn't guarantee that I could find an equal caliber replacement."
Despite an expected budget shortfall exceeding $1 million in the Bethel district next school year, Jamieson said debate - an expensive, travel-intensive activity that relies on about $15,000 from the district and thousands more in contributions and parental money - is safe. At worst, he said, the beginning and advanced classes would be combined in one.
"My personal and professional philosophy has been that we are a comprehensive high school, and we need a variety of activities for kids, all the way from the technical programs like welding and drafting to what I'll call traditionally highly academic programs like speech and debate," he said.
Bingham, himself a former high school debater, said few academic offerings weave in as much variety as forensics, which gives students a grounding in research skills, public speaking, political science, history and more. He wishes more schools made it a priority.
"I would be so much happier if the (regional) tournament was triple the size and Willamette only qualified two students," he said.
Terry Hatch takes quick notes while his brother Billy takes the lectern during a debate at Willamette High School on the ethics of nuclear weapons. Below, Billy (left) cross-examines his brother. BRIAN DAVIES / The Register-Guard