PHS debate team battles international competition

Patch High’s debate team recently combated eight different teams from seven different countries in EurOpen 2010, an international debating competition held Nov. 7-12 in Stuttgart.

The six Patch High students who debated in the competition faced teams from Turkey, Czech Republic, Sweden, Ukraine, South Korea, Lithuania and two local German schools. Patch ended the tournament with four wins and four losses.

The Canada-East team won the tournament, beating a Czech Republic team.

Junior Matt Lindman, a second-year debater at Patch, said he thought his team did well in the competition, considering their overall relative inexperience. Going into the EurOpen, Patch’s only other debating competition this school year were two rounds on Oct. 9.

“The EurOpen is really a high[er] level of competition from what we are used to, and the fact that we held our own for the most part against such high-ranked teams proves we’ve come a long way from last year,” said Lindman, 16.  

“With this experience I have high hopes for reaching the semi-finals, if not the finals, in the German League this year,” he added.

Only six of the 11 members on the Patch High team competed in EurOpen — Lindman, Annea Brown, Luke Widmer, April Petersen, Jonas Jones and James Pritchard.

The team’s wins were in debates with Ukraine, Lithuania, Otto-Hahn Gymnasium in Ludwigsburg and Friedrich-Abel Gymnasium in Vaihingen. The team’s losses during EurOpen were to teams from South Korea, Sweden, Czech Republic and Turkey, who were among the top eight in the competition, Lindman said.

Patch High debate team sponsor Virginia Dugan said some 32 teams from nearly as many countries competed in EurOpen. All of the debates were done in English and took place in various area German schools. 

Each round of debate included two three-student teams going head-to-head in a war of words, with each student allowed eight minutes to speak. Some of the rounds of debate were impromptu, meaning students learned of the motion to be debated on the spot, with only an hour to prepare an argument, Dugan said. That preparation, however, had to be done without the use of computers or electronic devices and with only three reference books, she added.

While Patch didn’t win any of the three impromptu rounds the team debated, they were victorious in several in which their indepth research and preparation paid off, said Widmer, 17, a senior. Patch’s wins included debates in which the debaters argued against scrapping the Euro in one, against repatriating cultural artifacts in another, against abolishing aid to Third World countries in yet another, and for allowing oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.

“We did our research, and our arguments were strong,” said Widmer, a first-year debater at Patch. “In the one debate, we capitalized on the argument that we couldn’t take aid away from countries not developed enough to stand for themselves in a domestic market, let alone a foreign market.”

Dugan said she was proud of Patch’s participation and hoped the debate team members would walk away from the tournament with additional debating experience and new friends from around the world.

“We learned a lot about style and other cultures from talking with these teams afterwards,” Lindman said. “The Swedish team was especially fun to talk with because they were one of the best and very interested in how we set up for debate and also American society … EurOpen was great.”