One of the many upsides of growing up in an increasingly diverse community and society is the unique perspectives and opinions you’re exposed to on a daily. Contrarily, this is also one of the downsides. People love to argue (even without a reason to), and while winning an argument may grant you bragging rights, there’s not really much to be happy about if you were disrespectful during it. Still, consistent work on your ability to argue can help make sure you win every argument you are involved in without the guilt that comes with rudeness afterward.
Garnet Valley Speech and Debate is an academic club at the high school that helps students develop their public speaking and argumentative skills. There are numerous events in the club and in speech and debate as a whole that anyone can participate in, but if you’re looking for something to apply to real life, Public Forum is the event for you.
Public Forum was established in 1995 as a halfway point between the moral arguments of Lincoln-Douglas debate and the fact-driven policy arguments of Parliamentary. In the event, a team of two competitors is given a topic and is set to argue both the pro (affirmative) and con (negative) side of the argument— the benefits of supporting a statement as well as the harms of it.
“It’s a unique type of debate where people generally debate about the world, the economy,” said Public Forum coach Alex Muppasani. “It is a great form of debate, and I feel like our of all the
styles of debate it’s the most realistic to the real world— if you were in an argument or just a normal conversation.”
Students competing in Public Forum need to be confident, and well-versed in their topic and general current events— and competing in it can help build these skills, according to Muppasani.
“I’ve noticed that [Speech and Debate] students are very energetic, focused, and passionate about sharing their opinions,” said advisor Elizabeth Krick.
When it comes to preparing for and arguing in a debate, preparation is key. Muppasani and varsity Public Forum debaters across the board emphasized the importance of researching in advance.
“I feel like starting ahead [makes sure] you won’t feel rushed, and you can get your good ideas down early and build off those,” said Muppasani.
While strategies for building a debate are largely up to each individual competitor, most prefer to research the background information of an argument first, and then individual points that back up the overall argument. Facts are the basis of Public Forum debate, but appealing to emotions is also key. Emphasizing the humanitarian benefits of your position inclines the judge to take your side.
Still, no amount of preparation equates to the presentation during an actual competition. In order to impress the judges, your spectators, and your competition, dressing in professional attire is key. Confidence is of utmost importance, and that can be built from simply knowing all the information required in your debate as well as practicing your arguments.
Presenting yourself in a respectable manner means being respectful to your opponent, despite opposing views. This goes for any argument, not just in a professional debate setting.
While it can be harder to confirm whether or not you won an argument when there’s not a judge telling you what to do, having the skills built during Public Forum debate can help you feel confident in yourself and increase your certainty of a winning argument.