Debate Team Members Going to Nationals

Emma Caramazza ‘20

Ten Sidwell students have talked their way into next month’s National Catholic Forensics League championship tournament, where they will be the home team.

The debaters had to qualify for the national competition, which will be held May 26 and 27 in the District, by finishing in the top six at a regional tournament last month.

This year marks the first time that Sidwell has qualified in three separate debate events. Seniors Rahul Gupta and Elena Salinas O'Toole and juniors Avi Evans and Nicholas Polansky qualified in “congressional” debate, junior Kelly Anderson and sophomore Rem Katyal qualified in “policy” debate, and juniors Rachel Blatt, Lauren Adler and Sydney Yi along with sophomore Alex Sundberg qualified in “public forum” debate.

Katyal and Anderson make up the first-ever Sidwell policy debate team. Anderson and Adler competed as a public forum debate team at last year’s national tournament in Louisville, but Anderson and Katyal decided to try policy debate and quickly found success. 

Policy debate involves two-person teams who are assigned to support or oppose a resolution determined at the beginning of the season. This season’s topic is elementary and secondary education. Policy debate focuses on research, and debaters often “talk extremely fast to maximize the amount of arguments they can get out within their speech time so that the other team has a lot more arguments to respond to,” Katyal said. 

Public forum debate uses a similar format, with two-person teams who must be prepared to support or defend a resolution, but generally relies less heavily on research. Each public forum debate lasts less than an hour, and a new topic is chosen every month. Rachel Blatt, who heads Sidwell’s public forum division, described the public forum format as “a balance of fast-talking policy debate and philosophical Lincoln-Douglas style debate.”

Congressional debate, also known as “Congress” for short, is modeled on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Instead of pairing off into teams, Congress debaters participate as individuals in a large group of competitors. Congress competitions involve around 20 people who have each prepared their own speeches “on one of nine preselected topics and then those resolutions are reviewed by the other participants in a series of three minute pro and con speeches which are generally followed by questioning,” said Polansky, who heads Sidwell’s Congress division and also participated in the national tournament last year. 

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