We’ll Miss These Seniors, and it’s not Debatable!

Neil Haran

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Various forms of competitive academic debate have been central tenants of American collegiate and high school educational institutions since the mid 19th century. Wake Forest, a college known nationwide for its debate team, claims that its debate program has roots that go back as far as the mid-1830s. Debate as an activity, however, has certainly changed since its inception centuries ago. Now, the structure of policy debate has shifted to include a wide range of political, philosophical, and theoretical arguments that would have been unheard of in 1835. Policy debaters in certain regions of the country also speak at rats of 350-500+ words per minute, making many of the speeches nearly-incoherent to the average passerby.

Academic policy and public forum debates at West Bloomfield High School adhere to these newer standards. West Bloomfield has two debaters in the graduating class, Neil Haran and Kathie Wu. This year, they debated the United States Federal Government’s policies pertaining to domestic surveillance. Specific topics included the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, The Patriot Act, Section 702, and the terrorism vs. national security debates that have dominated recent discourses on surveillance policy. Certain members of the team branched out into more critical and philosophical interpretations of the surveillance debate, researching its intersections with critical race theory, queer theory, feminist international relations theories, and critical terror studies.

Senior, Kathie Wu states, “debate has been an amazing part of all 4 year that I have spent at WBHS. Debating on the team has taught me to communicate in an effective way and has been helpful with a lot of other experiences and tasks.”

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Seniors Neil Haran and Kathie Wu prep with coach Joel Thursam for a debate

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The other form of debate that WBHS seniors have competed in is called public forum. Public forum is closer to the stereotypical image of high school debate looks like. With much slower-paced speeches and basic political arguments, this form of debate is far more accessible to the masses. This year, WBHS public forum debaters have discussed the merits of reparations, foreign aid, and the morals and political pragmatism of refugee crises. The seniors that have competed in this category are Riley Olson, Ian Graham, and Imani Cole.

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