On February 24 the Lake Forest High School Debate Team attended the ICDA state tournament at Harper College in Palatine. I sat down with senior, Emmet Brady, the president of the debate team, as well as junior Patrick Corrigan, who helps do research for each bill that is to be debated at tournaments. I discussed with them how debate works, as well as how the team did in Palatine last month. What many may not know is that the debate team participates in two different types of tournaments: Illinois Congressional Debate Association tournaments, which are serious competitions in which some of the best debaters in the state come together to discuss current issues; and Junior State of America tournaments, which are slightly more relaxed and often cover more lighthearted issues. The state tournament was sanctioned through the ICDA and attended by schools such as Stevenson and Wheeling High School. Brady earned himself a second place individual award, and Corrigan earned a third place award. Although no team awards were earned, another member of the team, Tim Haussermann participated in the championship tournament where the most elite debaters go head-to-head.
Debate tournaments require a great deal of advanced preparation. Research is required to be finished several weeks prior to a tournament. Usually, there will be nine bills being debated on a given day. At minimum, it would be expected that Brady and his colleagues have five pieces of evidence that support a bill, and five that refute it. Although they will decide which side of a bill they are arguing the day of the tournament, they must be prepared with introductions and arguments for both sides.
Several talented seniors will be leaving after this year, but Corrigan believes that the team has a very bright future as there are many enthusiastic underclassmen who have already been improving their speaking and researching skills. He hopes to take on a leadership role next year and help the debate team continue to succeed. Corrigan discussed his favorite things about debate and how it relates to being a skilled debater, “I like learning about issues and the different bills we’ll be talking about. It all helps me stay up to date on current events and remain aware of what’s going on.” The debate team works hard to ensure they are well informed on the issues they are discussing allowing them to form the most coherent arguments possible.
Brady echoed the sentiment that knowing a lot about the bills is hugely important. “The key to debating is understanding the material you’re talking about. When you’re with some of the most informed kids in Illinois you have to be well versed in whatever issue you’re focusing on, and all of the nuances associated with it.” It seems clear that Brady and Corrigan both owe their success at the state tournament to their dedication to debating and their interest in informing themselves and formulating strong arguments.