Debate team takes on state tournament


Photo used with permission of Ana Gaston

Former 2019 graduates Abidemi Aregbe, Callie Johnson and Maddie Butler bite on their first place medals for the World Schools event for debate at Southport High School on Jan. 26, 2019.

With hours of preparation filled with research, practice and the understanding of both sides of their issue, debate team members have a state tournament on Jan. 24-25 at Southport High School. Being a part of the debate team allows students to have a chance to debate in a healthy setting, according to head debate coach Matthew Follman.

“The importance of debate is that we don’t have a lot of productive conversations as a society, anymore,” Follman said. “So, the fact that we can put things in a format where, hopefully, people aren’t as polarized and it gets people more informed on certain topics. At the same point, it’s an art of negotiation and conversing with people to come to a resolution.”

During September, the debate team is called together and do not start competing until November. Then, they end the season in February after their district debate competition. The debate team meets weekly and practice the bills or topics in their issue, according to senior Ana Gaston.

There are four types of debates that are available for students: Congress, Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas and World Schools. Students debate on bills, resolutions and motions in accordance with the debate that they are participating in. For example, a debate about bills could be about a bill in order to impose term limits while a debate about resolutions could be about whether the U.S. should end sanctions on Venezuela.

According to Follman, the state debate team has had a lot of success with individual events, especially in Congress. Last year, Gaston won the state competition in Congress and semifinals at the national competition.

“This year, I hope to compete, perform my best and improve from last year,” Gaston said. “I am definitely more comfortable with the people in state debate, and I am excited to see everyone.”

Follman hopes to continue to help students articulate and understand contemporary debates in today’s society and also win awards and trophies.

“I think it’s the speech and debate team of the most valuable organizations that we have at this school, at least for employable skills,” Follman said. “It’s a tremendous amount of dedication and work that is put into play.”