An Argument for Trying Debate

photo-1By Hailey Yetman

As you are heading to your club during Tuesday lunch periods, do you ever wonder what happens in room 201? Open the door and you will find about 18 Winsor girls discussing debate: how to dissect an argument, how to refute effectively, how much candy they ate at Ms. Berg’s house that weekend, and how they totally “owned” those Roxbury Latin debaters the other day.

And Winsor debaters have certainly seen result. In the November 18 “sweetheart” debate, a small tournament between Winsor and Roxbury Latin, Winsor came out on top with more combined points scored than did Roxbury Latin. With Lilla Gabrieli ’16 crowned best overall speaker, we sure “beat the boys,” as Ms. Berg would say. Our own Polly Gabrieli ‘15 and Abigail Gabrieli ‘13 are heading to Worlds for debate in South Africa later this spring. The US team consists of about 17 students nationwide, two of which hail from Pilgrim Road. Go Winsor!

But what constitutes a winning debate? Novice debaters flock to Ms. Berg’s house to learn just that, taught by successful debate heads Abigail Gabrieli ’13, Elizabeth Hiss ’13, and Ms. Berg herself. The parliamentary-debate-fledglings work on public speaking, hone their quick thinking skills, and learn about current events. The novices practice debating controversial topics varying from whether the Massachusetts government should legalize medical marijuana to whether the United States should continue to drill for oil offshore. As Joanna Chen ’16 remarked, “What I like about debate is that you practice developing arguments for both sides of a discussion.” Topics debated at Roxbury Latin included the US government’s place in foreign aid, abolition of the SATs, military drones in Pakistan, and single sex schools. When asked why she enjoys debate club, Daria Crawford ’16 said, “You learn a lot about current events.”

In addition to keeping students up on their current events, debate is a great choice for students looking to improve their public speaking skills. Speaking slowly and logically while thinking quickly is a great skill for class discussions, presentations, and life after Winsor. As Holly Breuer ’14 remarked, “I was hesitant to join the debate team freshman year. The thought of standing up in front of a bunch of girls from Winsor—let alone students from other schools—was paralyzing at first, but, two years later, it’s not any more. I think I’m much more comfortable speaking up, in and out of organized debates, because I’ve had the experience of learning how to speak in public.”

Although some girls end up at Ms. Berg’s house in Brookline every Sunday because their parents have urged them to improve their public speaking, many more wind up staying for Ms. Berg’s expert leadership and the invaluable experience Winsor debate provides. I for one have certainly learned a lot already; debate has forced me to get in tune with worldwide events and news and has improved my public speaking skills. Debate is a great way to meet new people and to practice “arguing,” as many freshmen call it. If you are ever lost without a club on Tuesday afternoons, be sure to stop by Debate to say hello!