RAHWAY – Last month, the Rahway Public Library invited the Rahway High School Debate Team to perform a debate for community members, parents, and students.
The debate was held following the showing of the video The Great Debaters, held in honor of Black History Month. This was an internal debate, with Jamie Pierre, Jovanny Joseph, and Yvette Rivera debating against fellow team members Moreen Famosa and Emera de los Santos on the topic of “Cyberbullying Should be a Criminal Offense.” Three members of the Rahway Public Library Board of Directors acted as judges, giving students wonderful feedback and affirmation.
The team also has participated in the New Jersey Forensic League (http://www.njflonline.org/) Regional Conference, a competition attended by thirty high schools from New Jersey and New York. Teacher-coaches Patricia Peloso and Cliff Herrington state that the experience provides a very exhausting, but exciting day, stretching from early morning until early evening (7 am to 7 pm).
The Forensic League has competition in a variety of other areas such as oratory, interpretation, and extemporaneous speaking as well as debate. Rahway’s team competes in the Public Forum Debate (PFD), a team event that advocates or rejects a position posed by the monthly resolution topic announced online at www.nflonline.org. The clash of ideas must be communicated in a manner persuasive to the non-specialist or “citizen judge”, i.e. a member of the American jury. The debate should:
- Display solid logic, lucid reasoning, and depth of analysis
- Utilize evidence without being driven by it
- Present a clash of ideas by countering/refuting arguments of the opposing team (rebuttal)
- Communicate ideas with clarity, organization, eloquence, and professional decorum
During the January competition, the topic was “Plea Bargaining Undermines our Criminal Justice System.” Rahway students debated four times against four different teams from other high schools. When preparing for the debate, the students needed to be equally prepared for each side. Each time, just before the debate began, the judge flipped a coin with the winner of the toss selecting the side they wished to argue. Therefore, students could be arguing for plea bargaining in one debate and in the next, they must as effectively convince against plea bargaining. By requiring the ability to debate both sides of an issue, such debating builds students’ 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, and analysis.
Rahway High School Debate Team members Matt Kowal, Moreen Famosa, Desire Vites, Christine Torres, and Krystall Thomas at Freehold High School during a New Jersey Forensic League Competition. (Photo courtesy of Rahway High School)
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