Up for debate: PHS to host international debate team tourney this fall

The pressure is on as Patch High School’s debate team prepares to compete on an international scale in a tournament to be hosted in Stuttgart in November.

 On Nov. 7, Patch High will host the first day of competition of EurOpen 2010, formerly called the European Open, welcoming up to 40 debate teams from different countries. In the past, participating countries have included Korea, Romania, South Africa, Greece, Czech Republic, Turkey and Canada, according to the schools’ debating competition website, www.europen2010.com.
The tournament will conclude Nov. 12.

Patch High is the only native English-speaking member of the Debating Society Germany, according to Virginia Dugan, team sponsor.
Dugan said there is much work to be done in preparation of not only competing in, but also hosting, the international debating championship. The competition will require about 40 classrooms for debate teams to use in preparing their arguments, half of which will be used to conduct three different rounds of debates, she said.

“We are getting support from the [Parent Teacher Organization] and a wide variety of help from PHS organizations such as the Ambassadors, Student Council, the National Honor Society, the JROTC and various members of the faculty,” Dugan said.

The EurOpen tournament will consist of eight preliminary rounds, quarter-finals, semi-finals and a grand final.
Debate coach and retired teacher Michael Pates spoke recently to Patch High’s debate team, cautioning them not to rely too heavily on the perceived advantage of being native speakers in a German league — even if English is the debate language.

“You have to be prepared,” Pates said in his explanation of the German league’s format. “Being native speakers is not enough. It’s a game — a savage game of tooth and claw — and you want to leave your opponent bloody on the floor without touching them or speaking rudely directly to them, but with arguments.”

Debate team member and senior Annea Brown said that she is not underestimating the competition that Patch will face as members of the German league. Brown, 17, said they need to avoid procrastination in their debate research because it is often difficult to find the resources they need in English for the German-related topics.

 The team will face its first two rounds of debate in this year’s Senior German League competitions on Oct. 9 at the Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in Böblingen.
Junior Matt Lindman said he is looking forward to the start of the debate team’s season and Patch High’s hosting role in the November international competition, despite any challenges they will face.

“Debates are a lot harder than what I thought,” said Lindman, 16, who said he has debated in most of the dozen or so debates PHS participated in last school year. “Filling the time and then managing it is the hardest part.”

Junior James Pritchard said the team should focus on not feeling intimidated by the competition. “We competed against a No. 1 team last year,” said Pritchard, 17, who last school year convinced Dugan to revive the team that had been dormant for about a year.  “Personally, my biggest challenge will be keeping focused and not getting caught off guard.”

For more information on the PHS debate team, or to volunteer to assist with hosting EurOpen 2010, e-mail Virginia Dugan at Virginia.Dugan@eu.dodea.edu.