Debate 101: Not For the Faint of Heart


Ariana Arvanitis

Policy debate stands as the universally most competitive form of debate. It demands that students facilitate real-world skills such as critical thinking, oral and written communication, reasoned and fact-based argumentation, the ability to engage in intense research, and the capacity to establish ideas and articulate them through professional methods of presentation… all within a matter of seconds.

Each school year, debate teams across the country vote on a “resolution,” which is defined as a policy suggestion through the United States Federal Government under which all debates must center.

Therefore, from year to year debaters master knowledge from a wide array of topics. This diversity of topics includes, but is not limited to, anything from the U.S.’ choice to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to U.S.-Sino cooperation over space exploration, to curbing school discipline rates, to managing open educational resources, and to admitting more refugees from the Middle East.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the resolution is “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States.”

The format of policy debate involves the proposal of a “plan” to enact a Federal policy by the affirmative team. This plan must be rooted in the chosen resolution. On the opposing side, the negative team offers reasons to reject that proposal. Throughout the debate, debaters in a two-on-two format have the opportunity to deliver a constructive speech, a rebuttal speech, to read evidence to substantiate their claims, and to cross-examine one another (all of which help students demonstrate a full understanding of the topic). At the end of the debate, a judge or panel of judges determines the winner based on the arguments presented.

By the time this season concludes in April, debaters will have read thousands of articles about immigration and modern politics and will likely know as much about the U.S. legal immigration system as most experts in the field.

So for all high school students involved in debate, this is a busy time of year.

This year’s pre-season for Carrollton began on June 21st with three of our varsity debaters attending the University of Michigan 7-week debate camp. This was followed by the entire varsity team attending a 3-week debate camp at Carrollton. For debaters, debate camp is the best use of the summer as it is an opportunity to take a first crack at the topic with guidance from the best coaches in the country and improve delivery and research skills.

So far, Carrollton has begun its season by competing at three national circuit tournaments which have represented teams from up to 17 different states. These include the Greenhill Round Robin (TX), The Greenhill Fall Classic (TX), and the Chattahoochee Cougar Classic (GA). With momentum from these last three tournaments, we look forward to the success Carrollton debaters will achieve at the next two upcoming October tournaments: Heart of Texas Invitational and The University of Michigan High School Debate Tournament.  

In recent years, debate has become an increasingly important activity to shape future leaders. An education that has debate as its axis promotes collaborative problem solving and respect for differing viewpoints in our diverse and global society. The Carrollton debate team is proud to be the nation’s only all-female team and Carrollton’s only nationally ranked team. Carrollton debaters compete rigorously, engage in in-depth research, and are responsible for all missed work when they travel to represent Carrollton  as a Sacred Heart school. Carrollton Debate promotes the importance of education for young women, especially in such a male dominated field. The competitive and nationwide nature of debate humbles our team to a great extent, but also serves as a strong source of pride in Carrollton’s achievement.

Varsity Team Members:

Ariana Arvanitis, Cecilia de la Guardia, Jasmine Agreda, Nina Paneque, Camille Deschapelles, Emma Beharry, Natalie Guistini, Dorothy Darden, Carolina Perez, Cristina Jugo, Caroline Culmo, Cecilia Mestre, Joana Arvanitis, Gabriela Garity, and Amanda Hernandez.


Dana Randall, David Heidt, and Brett Bricker.