East’s debate team, who won nationals last year with alumni Karl Walter and Ali Dastjerdi, is known for its excellence around the country. But before this year’s seniors go to nationals, they must compete in smaller debate tournaments around Kansas, while further researching this year’s resolution, or topic, that debaters around the United States are also researching . This year’s topic is about if the United States Federal Government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance.
Senior debater Spencer Mitchell generally argues the negative side of the subject with his partner, senior Bhavish Dinakar. However, teams are required to debate both sides of the subject in different tournaments. Tournaments, which usually happen once every weekend, are generally structured in rounds, like an NCAA basketball tournament.
“Debate is about who won the debate and the arguments in the debate,” Mitchell said. “So even if you’re the worst debater, if at the end of the round you’ve proved that…there’s a big disadvantage to voting affirmative, then you will win that round of debate.”
Forensics, however, is kind of like acting, except one is judged on it. There are many types of forensics categories to compete in, like interpretive, where one memorizes a less than 10 minute speech to present to judges. It can be a humorous or dramatic interpretation, and one can also choose if they want it to be a duo and have a partner. Other options are duet, where partners can look at each other (as opposed to not being able to in a duo), poetry, prose, oratory, impromptu and more, each of which come with their own rules.
Junior forensicator Brena Levy’s favorite category is duo, in which she and her partner get to act out a scene that they memorized beforehand. Her and her partner, Kate Higgins, had an interpretive last year called “My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours.” They weren’t allowed to look at each other or use any props during the performances.
While debaters and forensicators are required to participate in both activities – they do debate in the fall and forensics in the spring – most usually have a favorite.
“I’m a lot more into forensics because I like the concept better,” Levy said. “I like performing and I like being the center of attention. Spencer is much more committed to debate.”
Either way, debaters and forensicators have the same goal: to educate themselves and enhance their presentation skills.
“It’s something that a lot of people, regardless of skill level, really work to come and educate themselves in ways that other people can’t and normally don’t do in high school,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a great way to learn a lot more about the world and a great way to become more active politically and socially.”