Middle school debators host British students

Middle School debaters met with British debaters at the Vance de Laguna Room on October 25 to debate one serious topic and one light topic. Freshmen Ben Sprung-Keyser, Jacob Sonnenberg and Chris Holthouse hosted the three students from Latymer School in London in their homes after meeting them when they traveled to London after winning a competition in Los Angeles.

The debate’s topic consisted of the more serious issue of “was Britain was wrong in following the United States into the war,” and the topic “Has the march of feminism gone too far?” The Harvard-Westlake team and the British team were mixed into two combined teams from each school. Said Sonnenberg “began the debate believing that Britain was right to go into Iraq with the U.S. and I still hold that view, although the debate definitely made me think about both sides.” Their audience consisted of the middle school debate team along with siblings, parents and faculty members who are part of the debate coaching staff.

Claire Pasternack, middle school English teacher and a middle school debate coach said “The debate was excellent and really close—as a judge I would have had a very hard time picking a side. There was excellent clash (a lot of good back-and-forth) on key issues. The rebuttals were excellent. Kids gave very passionate speeches.”

As for the second topic, the students took a more relaxed attitude. Sonnenberg said the second topic debate “quickly developed into an argument over who is better, men or women; the speeches were all very funny, but none of the debate was serious.”

“It seemed to be a great learning experience for all kids, particularly those newer to debate.” Said Pasternack, “as for next year, I don’t think this will happen again. It really was a specific case with our 9th graders who went to England some years ago. But of course, if we had the opportunity to do this again, we’d love to!”