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High School Students Flock to Annual Debate Tournament

Harvard Debate Council, Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society Sponsor, Judge Competition

By Edward B. Smith iii

Two thousand briefcase-toting students from high schools nation-wide competed at a debate tournament judged in part by Harvard undergraduates last weekend.

The annual three-day competition is one of the largest in the nation, said Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society Comp Director David B. Lat '96, who is a Crimson editor.

Representatives of the Harvard Debate Council, the Harvard Forensics Society and the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society judged students in various speech and debate categories.

Events were held at several different Harvard locations, in addition to rented classrooms at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.

Competitors in the Lincoln-Douglas category debated the resolution that American society is well served by the maintenance of a separate culture for the deaf. Lincoln-Douglas, also known as "value" debate, stresses principles such as justice and equal opportunity.

Members of the Debate Council, who have hosted the event since 1974, selected the above resolution. They said concerns that deaf activists would protest the topic proved unfounded.

"Three or four deaf people showed up on Sunday to listen with interpreters, but there were no activists and no demonstrations," said Harvard debate coach Dallas Perkins.

Though it is rare that two students from the same school both make the final, W. Ian McGuiness and David Brown, of Regis High School in New York, took the top two spots in the Lincoln-Douglas competition.

When two students from the same school reach the final, no final is held, and both are declared co-champions, Lat said.

Unlike Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate does not focus on values, but policy issues.

Two representatives from the St. Mark's School of Texas took top honors in the policy division.

Comptetitors in the policy division focused on the issue of strengthening regulations on immigration.

Debaters also competed in other speech events ranging from humorous interpretation, in which the students perform a comical literary work from memory, to extemporaneous speaking, in which students deliver an unprepared oration on current events topics.

The tournament also featured a student congress in which students debated the merits of bills that had been previously distributed to them.

Because there were not enough rooms available on the Harvard campus, tournament organizers used Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School as their headquarters on the first two days of the debate. They were able to move to Sever Hall on Sunday.

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