The Washington Times
July 18, 2000

No contesting skill of young debaters

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
July 18, 2000

The finals were unbelievable during the Home School Legal Defense Association’s recent national debate tournament. The two-time national debate champion, Joseph Rose of San Jose, Calif., together with his partner, Chris Stollar of Springfield, Ore., another longtime debate powerhouse, faced a team of first-year debaters. George Davis of Antioch, Calif., and Daniel Lynch of Pittsburg, Calif., proposed eliminating the graduated national income tax and replacing it with a 23 percent national sales tax.

Joseph and Chris countered with a flurry of disadvantages that would flow from a national sales tax. And the debate raged at a level that surpasses most congressional debates by two or three standard deviations.

George and Daniel won the final balloting of the judges, 3 to 2. Their calls to turn away from the income redistribution model of the Internal Revenue Service made one judge, a former college debater and now practicing lawyer, remark, “It gives me far greater confidence to turn over our country to the next generation to know that kids like this exist.”

The tournament was held June 22-24 on the gorgeous campus of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif. Two styles of debaters competed at the tournament. Team debate, won by George and Daniel, and Lincoln-Douglas debate, a one-person competition, won by Andrew Bailey of Modesto, Calif.

Individual awards for amassing the greatest number of speaker points went to two debaters headed for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., this fall. Melissa Hurter of Honey Brook, Pa., was the nation’s top speaker in team debate. Eric Papetti of Huntsville, Ala., was the top speaker in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Eric also finished second in the debate competition itself.

For the first time there were also five categories of individual forensic events — impromptu speaking, humorous interpretation, duo (two person) interpretation, dramatic interpretation and original oratory.

Wendell Moon of Napa, Calif., won the sweepstakes award for amassing the greatest number of points in at least three of the five individual events. Wendell was a part of the duo interpretation team, with Bonnie Ladwig, that placed first in that event. Wendell and Bonnie performed their piece at the awards ceremony. It was so powerful that there wasn’t a dry eye in my area of the auditorium.

My call to every home-schooling parent is this: Get your children involved in forensics and debate. Home-schooling makes a life of leadership possible. Debate and forensics makes leadership likely. Numerous parents said their children’s participation in debate had marked a turning point in their home-schooling experience.

Students who debate learn research, speaking, analysis and logic and develop an extraordinary sense of self-confidence that comes from achievement, not feel-good self-esteem programs.

The beginning age for these activities is 13. There are debate and forensics clubs all over the nation and there is room to start others. There is an active debate program in Northern Virginia and in Pennsylvania. Maryland home-schoolers have yet to participate in this program.

For parents interested in starting a debate or forensics program, there are plenty of resources available. There is a textbook on basic debate written by home-school graduate and a highly successful college debater Christy Shipe. (In the interest of full disclosure, Christy’s maiden name is Farris.) Also available are a video instruction course featuring Deborah Haffey, the Cedarville (Ohio) College debate coach; instructional booklets on how to start a debate tournament; materials for judges and more.

For these materials or for contact information for debate and forensics activities in your area, send e-mail to debate@hslda.org or call 540/338-5600 and speak to our debate coordinator. A new stand-alone organization is developing for home-school forensics, but you can still contact HSLDA during the transition period.

As I saw 160 students from all over America armed with the academic excellence that comes from home-schooling and the presentation skills that come from debate and forensics, there was a palpable sense that many of the highest national leaders of the next generation were walking the oceanside campus at Point Loma. That judgment was right. There is reason for hope.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.