Fairmont debaters head to state

ABOVE: Members and coaches of Fairmont High School’s debate team outside the school before they left for the state tournament on Friday. From left: Coach Erik Walker, Thomas Hamlet, Levi Loughmiller, Dominick Lund-May, Leon Yang, Isaiah Lockwood, Andrew Haefner, Clark Hazard, Season Kotewa, Bel Lutterman, Kelsey Hunter and coach Christine Barkley.

FAIRMONT- Eleven students from Fairmont High School’s debate team are attending the state tournament in at Two Rivers High School in Mendota Heights today. The two day event opened on Friday and is the culmination of their normal debate season.

Erik Walker and Christine Barkley are the team’s coaches. The school’s debate team resurfaced in 2017.

“Being put in a room with two people who have researched exactly how to tell them that they’re wrong about something doesn’t sound fun for most people, but to see students put in that work… (and) wake up early on a Saturday to go do that, that’s just been awesome,” said Walker.

Over the course of the season students competed in teams of two arguing for or against an issue. In order to succeed in debate students must develop and effectively use research, public speaking and teamwork.

Before debating each topic at a tournament, students extensively research both sides of an issue and build their arguments. Effective debaters must then deliver their arguments quickly and clearly once a round has begun. After students give their initial argument, they must then compose and deliver a rebuttal to their opponents’ argument while defending their own.

The issue discussed in the first half of the season was whether or not colleges should accept standardized test scores as part of their admissions process. Discussion during the second half of the season and at the state tournament centers around whether or not the United States should encourage an overthrow of the Iranian government.

Members of the team said discussions of both subjects were very engaging.

“With the SAT and the ACT we’re all going to have to take those tests, and with the Iran topic it’s always developing so every day we come to practice there’s always something new going on we’ll have to practice and research,” said Bel Lutterman, a freshman on the team.

“It’s very interesting to see the different viewpoints and different kinds of information being brought up about Iran that I don’t see everyday,” said Season Kotewa, a sophomore on the team.

When arguing in favor of supporting regime change in Iran debaters may say the unprecedented scale of public protests is a sign the policy could be successful, the United States has a moral responsibility to defend human rights, or Iran’s arms transfers to Russia and Houthi militias in Yemen destabilize global security.

Those arguing against supporting regime change may say it would play into government claims of foreign actors motivating domestic protests, incentivize Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and lead to further human rights abuses.

Once these arguments were developed they’re refined over the course of the season in response to effective counter-strategies students see at tournaments. Repeatedly examining a subject from different sides has led many debaters to think more critically about it.

Walker said, “the debaters get to know a topic so well that when they approach it they might have an opinion one way or the other … at the end of the season I ask the debaters … which side they think is right and they almost always say it’s somewhere in the middle.”

“It makes it really interesting because you have to completely switch your entire mindset and debate from a different standpoint,” said Isaiah Lockwood, a junior on the team.

The state tournament consists of several normal rounds on Friday before proceeding towards elimination rounds on Saturday. Because Fairmont competes in a smaller section it has been easier for them to send more students to the state tournament. This is the first state tournament attended by Fairmont students since the beginning of the pandemic.


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