ASAP Debate Captains Deconstruct the Presidential Debate

It's always nice to combine what ASAP does after school with what is going on in the wider world. Yesterday, the Philadelphia Scholastic Debate League team captains gathered for a special event to discuss the presidential debates. Though all but one of the students were ineligible to vote, all were still extremely invested in both the debate and the outcome of the election. For example, Deion Jordan, a senior at Constitution High School, works for the Obama campaign. As he put it, "I can't vote yet, but I get my vote by empowering others to vote." The third presidential debate focused on foreign policy, tying closely in with the November Public Forum Debate topic: Resolved--Current US foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security.
ASAP Debate Captains Deconstruct the Presidential Debate
Debate student captains had a lot to say about the presidential debates!
More after the jump...

ASAP Executive Director Justin Ennis kicked off the conversation by asking the captains, "how do [the candidates] use this opportunity to advance certain points?" With this in mind, the discussion began. Much of the conversation centered around the debate styles that the candidates used. The PSDL uses public forum debate, where competitors seek to persuade lay judges to their argument. Though the format for the third presidential debate was different, many captains noticed that at their essence, the presidential debates are for similar purposes and have the same challenge of bringing people over to one side or the other. Antonio Dill from Sankofa Academy noted that "it's not only debate but it's also politics. People use the debates to decide, and speaking style can change that."
ASAP Debate Captains Deconstruct the Presidential Debate
Deion makes his point.
One aspect of the debate that the students focused on was how off-topic the candidates could get during their turns to speak. For example, during a question about US foreign policies with China, both candidates wound up discussing the US economy, national debt, and taxes. Alyssa Hill of the Academy at Palumbo said that when she is in a crossfire during a debate she occasionally has the same problem, but has an effective way of resolving the issue: "I try to reiterate the question and make it so it benefits me or damages them...I don't just go with them and start a new point." The captains also talked about how the candidates occasionally argued with each other directly, and whether that was an effective use of their screen time. Brittany Butler, from Furness High School, explained that for her, there was a key difference between being assertive and being aggressive: "You can be aggressive...and humble at the same time. If you have a point that you want to come out, it will - you don't have to push it."
The event concluded with ASAP Debate and Drama Coordinator Meg Hess-Homeier challenging the students to put their political beliefs aside and argue for why the candidate they did not support had won the debate. The students rose to the test beautifully, speaking to body language and posture, professionalism, and noting how candidates' use of numbers and data could help or hurt their cases. Overall, the event was a huge success, and ASAP is grateful to the United Way for hosting us. Good luck to our debate teams for the rest of the season - we can't wait to see what you will bring to your competitions!
ASAP Debate Captains Deconstruct the Presidential Debate

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