The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

Debate students prepare to learn congressional debate

The debate class is preparing to delve into congressional debate, in which students debate in the style of debates held in the United States Congress.

The debate class previously focused on public forum debate, which involves two teams of two students debating current events and issues. In contrast, congressional debate involves having a group of students each create, present and argue for a bill. The students argue for or against that legislation in a session, and the process is led and kept on-track by the presiding officer.

“[The students] present a bill, and after it feels like ‘okay, we’re done talking about that,’ the presiding officer hits the gavel and says, ‘Okay, we’re done with that. We’re moving on to the next bill,'” debate teacher Mark Schledorn said. “The presiding officer’s job is to keep things moving, which is a lot of speaking.”

Schledorn said that congressional debate is the next step onwards from learning public forum debate.

“It’s a natural progression from public forum debate because it’s policy,” Schledorn said. “The congressional debate should be more involved, and the topics will be turning over throughout the day.”

Sophomore Caelen Garcia said he feels as though his previous lessons have prepared him for the change in material.

“I’m not really sure how it’s going to work, but I think I’ll do better than I did in public forum because debate skills in general feel cumulative with my debate skills expanding,” Garcia said. “Previously, I worked on research for debate cases such as forgiving student loans and if we should ban single-use plastics, so I feel that this has given me the backing to make cohesive arguments with reasoning and evidence.”

Schledorn said he is also ready to move into this new debate style but that there are issues that lie ahead.

“It should be fun, but here’s my concern: once we get back from spring break, we’re already in April,” Schledorn said. “We have essentially a month until we’re in testing season, and then nobody’s ever in their classes at the same time.”

The lack of time to learn congressional debate before testing begins is also due to the fact that the debate class has continued reviewing public forum debate.

“We’re finishing [public forum] up this week; there is some overlap,” said Schledorn. “I’m doing some review this week because in the debates that we held last week in class, it became evident to me that there were some places that needed shoring up, like cross examination. They don’t really know what they’re doing there.”

However, Schledorn said these issues are less of a concern for congressional debate than they would be for public forum debate due to the nature of congressional debates.

“If we were doing public forum, I can’t count on all four debaters in a public forum debate to be in the room at the same time,” he said. “However, congressional debate is not unlike Congress: everybody gets to participate, but it’s not contingent on anybody having to be there. There are a lot of people who don’t show up for congressional hearings or anything. So, it can work like that. I’m not totally reliant on everyone having to be here for it to work.”

Garcia said the debate format could benefit him in his career.

“I’m excited to transition into this new type of debate since I’m considering going into politics in the future and discussing political issues from time to time,” Garcia said.

The debate class is going to begin learning how to do congressional debate when they return to school after spring break.

“We’ll spend a couple weeks learning how to do it, we’ll be watching some of them online, and then we’ll actually get down into it,” Schledorn said. “That’ll take us to the end of April, and then we start to do AP testing, and I’ll have to figure out what to do from that going forward. I’ll ask other debate teachers ‘what the heck do you do during [AP testing]?'”

While the plan for the lessons is partially set up, Schledorn said he will still be adjusting due to the testing schedule and his inexperience with teaching debate.

“This year, I’m learning this stuff just one step ahead of the students,” Schledorn said. “I actually did judge a congressional debate, but I don’t think I judged it very well. I didn’t know what was happening because I was kind of dropped in from another planet.”


By Juliana Johnson


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