by Nate Everett & Mike Welch, Social Studies Department – Sandwich High School
This year Sandwich High School created its first competitive debate team! Four freshmen gathered weekly to prepare their affirmative and negative claims and evidence on this year’s national debate topic: “Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially increase its non-military exploration and/or development of the Earth’s oceans.” Debate meets were held at high schools throughout southeastern Massachusetts. With over 15 schools competing in the league, there are approximately 250 students debating at any one meet. Debaters meet for 8 rounds, then compete in a public debate during the finals.
So, for those not familiar with high school debate, there are two teams: affirmative and negative. A citizen judge decides who wins based on specific criteria. Affirmative teams have to create a specific plan that meets the resolution above.
In the case of Jack Sheehan and Sara McFarland, their plan specifically addressed exploring, gathering and developing coral reefs from the world’s oceans to develop new medicines needed to treat many ailments, including life-threatening ones. Affirmatives have the burden of proof to show that their plan addresses a specific harm (or harms), will solve those identified problems, and provide additional advantages.
Negatives, like Sam Bates and Olivia Brown, have the duty of refuting the affirmative plan using evidence and reasoning. Both sides have the opportunity to cross-examine each other as well, giving them experience in quick, critical thinking and problem solving. Debate also provides students with a structured format for developing and demonstrating public speaking skills. Overall, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn, practice, and master many personal and professional skills used later in life. It’s also a LOT of fun.