You are the driver of a trolley hurtling down a train track, with brakes hanging off the edges. Helpless, you see five men apparently unaware of the incoming trolley at the end of the track, and you will surely hit and kill them—but wait—the track diverges just five feet ahead, and should you steer the trolley off course and into the other track, it would crash and kill only one man. Will you make the decision to steer the trolley?
Rarely do people ponder these moral dilemmas on a daily basis, but for Lincoln-Douglas debaters, these thoughts are as regular as morning pancakes. Every week in room B100, philosophical discussions flare as students prepare for their upcoming tournaments. The efforts paid off during their last tournament on March 5, as the competitors took second, third, and fourth places overall.
“I cannot ask for anything more from my Lincoln-Douglas team, as they performed up to my very hopes and aspirations,” said Coach Michael Silber, english and history teacher. “We performed extremely well this year overall as well, and I believe we could have easily swept the awards with a little more luck and determination.”
Although the Parliamentary and Public Forum debate teams were not able to place in the tournaments, the SIS Forensics team in general, including the Speech division, won first place in its conference for its dominance over the previous two tournaments. The Speech team achieved meaningful results as well, with speakers placing first and second in Extemporaneous category, second and third in the Original Oratory category, and third in Poetry.
“We are in a very strong position to win the final tournament as well,” said Coach Lee Piscioneri, Forensics adviser. “What is more exciting is how we have successfully incorporated the young and new members this season into the team, which has become even more important and pertinent as many of our top speakers will be graduating this year.”
Already, the coaches are looking forward to the next year, hoping to improve on what has already proved to be a successful season. As a newcomer this year, Coach Silber especially had fresh ideas to improve the performance and communication of the team.
“A large factor of our success was the frequent head-to-head sparring matches we held during our practices, which helped us identify the holes and weaknesses in our arguments,” Coach Silber said. “I am hoping to expand and further these matches, along with the roster of our team as well. Many of our top debaters will become juniors and seniors next season, and a challenge will be to replace them with promising underclassmen, who we will nurture and guide through the mentorship of older debaters.”
According to Coach Silber, a new wiki site is also under development for the Debate team to serve as an online space for debaters to discuss their arguments, ideas, and philosophy at all times and places. Despite these exciting developments, however, debate still boils down to blood, sweat, and grit, as participants toil to build their arguments and counter-arguments deep into the night.
“Even with the new methods of practice, I still believe that continuous practice and preparation remains above all other alternatives,” said Juhyung Park (11), Forensics member. “Practice is essential for any individual debater to do well and for SIS as a whole to win tournaments.”
Coach Silber agrees: “Debate is one of the higher-level activities which require more dedication and commitment, and this is why I have such respect for my debaters—the fact that they are able to address concerns that cannot be predicted beforehand is a testament to their skill, intelligence, and character.”