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Debate team places ninth at nationals

By Hallie Jordan     4/14/11 7:00pm

The George R. Brown Forensics Society, better known as the speech and debate team, improved to ninth place this year from 19th last year at the Parliamentary Debate Nationals March 16-19 in Colorado Springs.

There were 149 teams from 70 schools competing, Director of Forensics and Debate Coach David Worth said. Ten students participated in winning 28 debates, three individual awards and two team awards, he said. Other competitors included the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado College, University of California Berkeley and Notre Dame University.

"This year we worked really hard and are glad to be back after two years," Worth said. "I am looking forward to next year and am hoping we will be in the top five. We have a very solid team."

After most of the team graduated two years ago, they have worked continuously to rebuild themselves. Last year, the team placed 19th in the same competition and 29th the year before.

Traditionally Rice's team places in the top five or 10 in national competitions, Worth said.

The 16-member team practices every Tuesday, working out a full parliamentary debate round — an event in which students are given a topic and then 20 minutes to prepare for a 45-minute long debate.

The team also participates in speech and Lincoln-Douglas debates, a format where students prepare an argument in advance instead of at the competition. For a speech event, the student researches a topic for the entirety of a season to create a 10-minute in-depth speech. Three speeches placed at a competition two weeks ago. Topics included black market cigarettes and conflict kitchens.

Though the team is currently centered around parliamentary style debates, there is a possibility of switching to a Lincoln-Douglas focused team, Martel Junior Katie Donovan said.

"I think LD [Lincoln-Douglas] holds a lot of promise for students and their kind of lifestyle," Donovan said. "A stable topic helps set and clarify the amount of work."

Whether the team changes focus or not will probably be a student decision next year, Donovan said.

Practicing debate helps him use the information he learns in class, Martel College freshman Andrew Amis said. As an engineer, he said it helps him combine both humanities and science ideas.

"[Debate is] one of the most practical experiences you can have," Amis said. "A lot of students are very bright but cannot communicate ideas effectively. Debate helps you synthesize a tremendous amount of information in a very short time."

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