COLUMBIA CITY — Two members of Columbia City High School’s debate team won first place at the Northeast Indiana District Debate Tournament at Concord High School in Elkhart recently.
Austin Andreas and Dakota Wappes, both seniors, will attend the national debate tournament in Dallas, Texas, June 13-18.
The alternate team from CCHS for the national tournament consists of seniors May Cheng and Linda Hershman.
A week after qualifying for the national tournament, Andreas won the Bob Brittain Mental Attitude Award for Debate at the Indiana State Debate Tournament.
Four awards are given annually at the state tournament: three for speech and one for debate.
Aaron Dicker, the CCHS Speech & Debate team coach, says the award used to be called the Hawker Scholarship, but it was changed this past year to honor Brittain, who was well known by those involved in the Indiana High School Forensics Association (IHSFA). The award was begun in 1996, and Andreas is the first member of the CCHS team to receive the award. He received a $250 scholarship, along with an engraved plaque.
Current speech & debate team members, in addition to Andreas, Wappes, Cheng, and Hershman, are Alex Dryer, also a senior; and sophomore Hannah Clark.
There are three different debate styles, according to Dicker: Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Policy and Public Forum.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates deal with moral and philosophical issues. Clark is the team’s Lincoln-Douglas debater. Some of the topics she has debated this year include trying juveniles charged with violent felonies in adult court; imminent domain; globalization and the environment; and human rights.
The Policy topic remains the same all year, and it is the same nationwide for all high school debate teams. This year’s topic is troop reduction in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, or South Korea. Each team is given the opportunity to interpret the topic any way it chooses; for example, Andreas and Wappes debated the reduction of burn pits in Afghanistan, while Cheng and Hershman debated the pros and cons of private military contractors in Afghanistan.
Public Forum debate topics change every month, but are also the same nationwide for all high school teams. This year’s topics have included whether or not plea bargaining is good for the justice system and whether or not a mosque should be built at ground zero. February’s topic is Wikileaks.
Team members spend hours and hours researching their debate topics and preparing for their debates since the start of the season in October. They practice their debates and speeches alone and with each other. Every team member speaks or debates in every speech or debate meet.
In speech, there are 14 different events. Dryer participates in the speech category of Original Oratory, which Dicker calls a “classic event.” Cheng and Hershman participate in the Congressional Debate category, and other team members participate in Extemporaneous Speaking.
“This past weekend was another qualifier for Nationals in a different event -- Congress or Congressional Debate. While CCHS had a good showing, Linda Hershman is once again the alternate to Nationals. This is the second time she has placed one spot behind qualifying. The rest of the team, including Hershman, will have one more chance to qualify at the District Speech Tournament coming up in a couple of weeks,” explained Dicker.
Success at a tournament is making it to the final round. The team attends approximately 12 speech and debate tournaments a year. This year, the team still has speech sectionals on March 5, the district tournament on March 12, and the state speech tournament on March 26. After that, team members will focus on recruiting new members for next year’s team.
“It’s never good not to have seniors to pass along their speech and debate team knowledge and experience,” said Dicker.
Dicker has navigated the team through this year’s coaching change after Brittain’s death. Two other coaches also did not return so he is the only coach at this time, although State Senator Jim Banks has come back to help the team. Banks was a state champion in policy for the CCHS debate team.
“We have a very good community in Columbia City that supports the speech and debate team because of what Mr. Brittain did for it over the years,” stated Dicker. “The hardest first step for any new coach is to maintain a team, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Dicker is a substitute teacher for Whitley County Consolidated Schools (WCCS). He is a graduate of South Side High School in Fort Wayne, and was active on the speech and debate team there, which Bob Brittain helped establish. Dicker stayed active in speech and debate through college at DePauw University, and interacted with Brittain at speech and debate tournaments through the years.