Debate team headed to nationals

Isaac Pasley

Constructive arguments: Senior Syed Ejaz speaks with a competitor before the first round of debate competition March 17. Ejaz and his partner, senior Rick Flinn, placed second in public forum debate. Photo by Muhammad Al-Rawi.

Following a school year of preparation, the RBHS debate team participated in the Missouri State High School Activities Association competition March 15 and 17.

Debate teacher Stacey Bonderer said RBHS had mixed success in the tournament. Syed Ejaz and Rick Flinn placed second, and Sara Ashbaugh and Whitney Cravens came in third in the public forum debate.

Thanks to their second-place finish, Ejaz and Flinn will compete in the national tournament, which will take place in Indianapolis in June.

Most of the debates Bonderer’s class participate in consist of students working in groups of two. the MSHSAA debate competition, however, was mostly made up of individual events that paired up teams whom RBHS does not often meet.

“This contest is unlike any that we attend all year. For one, it’s almost completely dominated by individual events, and the tournaments we attend at Kansas City and St. Louis have really strong debate sections by contrast,” Bonderer said. “Two, we get a chance to compete in those individual events with our neighbor schools, most of whom don’t debate, so they don’t travel to the tournaments they usually attend. Finally, since we host this tournament, we get a chance to really see the tournament from the inside-out.”

In the months leading up to the contest, Bonderer put lots of effort into preparing for the event. She began thinking about the date about a year in advance, and early in January 2012, started to recruit judges.

There were nine individual events, but finding times to hold them proved difficult.

“The scheduling is like a moving target. When a school changes or drops an entry, it often affects other peoples’ entries, like knocking over a domino,” Bonderer said. “Each time I check email, I find a new question or challenge.”

However, Bonderer thought the event was worth all the preparations.

“My very favorite part is the organization,” Bonderer said. “I really enjoy the preparation, the scheduling and the internal workings of the tournament.”

Students also did plenty to get ready for the debate competition, spending weeks preparing.

“We write our cases, and we do a lot of research to get all the points of the topic,” Ashbaugh said. “We were well-prepared. We had to wait a long time for the topic, so we were ready.”

With the contest finished, Bonderer’s students plan to focus on reviewing their subjects and honing their skills in anticipation of the tournament.

“We’ll take a look at the topics in our society that interest us the most and practice researching those to enhance our critical thinking and delivery in a more fun, relaxed way,” Bonderer said. “Beginning later this spring, Rick and Syed will find out the topic for national competition and will begin devoting time to researching that topic and talking out the various ways it could manifest itself in debates at nationals.”
By Isaac Pasely