By Gabriel Dunatov ’14
Although Seattle Prep has had various discussion clubs in the past, including at one time a full-fledged debate team, in the last few years it has been sorely lacking. Apart from Mock Trial, students interested in debate had nowhere to turn to. All of this changed this semester, however, when Juniors Peter Eusebio and Gabriel Dunatov began the debate club.
Eusebio and Dunatov began this club after observing how students interested in debate could not exercise this interest within the time constraints of Collegio. With Mock Trial becoming increasingly competitive and offering a different structure, this club is meant for genuine debate. The founders’ goals are to expand students’ interest in current events, develop their debating skills, and increase their commitment to face the challenges of their generation. Although it was in development for almost the entirety of first semester last year, the club only fully began with its first meeting on February 8th.
The club runs on a schedule of alternating informally and formally structured debates. In informal debates, tudents are divided in the room according to their position on a prompt. Students can then raise their hands and give brief statements of their opinions on the subject at hand. Afterwards, other students can rebut the previous statement, add on to it, or take the discussion in a new direction. Towards the end of the sessions, students have the chance to sum up their side’s view with a brief closing statement.
In contrast, formal debates are structured along the lines of the debates sophomores experience in Collegio. Students are split into teams and write up opening statements, rebuttals, and closing statements before the date of the meeting. While formal debates certainly emphasize preparation, both informal and formal structures put a lot of focus on improvisation and speaking off the cuff. Although students are forbidden from speaking discriminatorily, insultingly, or over extensively, impassionate and well thought out statements are highly encouraged.
Whichever structure of debate is in place, the club’s moderators, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Hogan, always oversee sessions. Along with the co-presidents (Eusebio and Dunatov), they monitor the debates and ensure that everyone is given a chance to speak respectfully.
The prompts for both the informal and formal debates center on current events. For example, the first debate was on the justification of foreign military intervention, which is currently being debated internationally in regards to Syria. The second meeting focused on gun control, which has been in the center of the media spotlight since the tragic Newtown shootings. Future meetings will face issues such as immigration, drug control, and the death penalty, among others. Generally, students will have a chance at the end of meetings to choose which prompt they would like to debate in the next meeting.
The club represents an exciting opportunity for students interested in debate. The club meets every other Friday at lunch in A101. The prompts are emailed out to members the week before the debates, but are also broadcasted over the announcements a couple of days in advance. Whether students are seasoned veterans of Collegio debates looking for a chance to show their skills or have never debated before but are interested in trying, there’s a place for them in the debate club.