Glenbrooks host nationwide debate tourney
Northbrook-Students lounge in the halls in the down time.School District 225 hosts three-day national debate/speech tournament. 206 high schools participating in 13 categories. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2011 8:24AM
High school students from around the country spent three full days in the north suburbs critically pondering a very weighty topic.
From Friday to Monday, the Glenbrook high schools hosted the 32nd Speech and Debate Tournament, billed as one of the largest events for teenage orators from 210 high schools.
The topic to resolve?
Should the U.S. government increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s upper stratosphere?
Debaters and speechmakers competed at Glenbrook North and South high schools, Maple Junior High and New Trier High School in Northfield.
Glenbrook host students did not compete, but many helped organize events.
The final all-day rounds were at Deerfield Hyatt Hotel, where between debates students hunkered over laptops in hallways and atrium dining rooms, bolstering upcoming deliberations with online research.
Debate judge Mary Gregg, an instructional assistant and debate coach at Glenbrook North, said most winners presented a clear argument, heavily cited to evidense in law reviews, trade journals, newspaper articles and science publications.
“Students use these sources to explain their reasoning and critical thinking in relation to taking a position that is more valid than others,” said Gregg, of Oak Park.
Former debate coaches, students and students now on college teams served as judges.
Marcel Roman, a senior at Whitney Magnet High School in Chicago, believed think tanks compiled the most useful information.
“The majority of the research we look for is from think tank organizations, like the Heritage Foundation, because it always has an opinion about something,” he said.
“We can find opposing ideas that refutes or supports evidence.”
Michael Greenstein, social studies instructor at Glenbrook North, and Tara Tate, an English teacher at Glenbrook South, were event organizers.
In 2008, the National Debate Coaches Association named Tate Educator of the Year.
“A lot of students who come here don’t travel nationally for debates,” said Greenstein, a 2001 Glenbrook North graduate who went on to Emory University, Atlanta.
“They choose to come here because it’s the most competitive. For us, we start planning a year ahead.”
Greenstein was a state debate champion in 2001 when the subject was privacy rights and government infringement.
Students with interests “across the board” participate in debate clubs at North and South high schools, numbering about 130.
“You’ll find students here in sports, theater, student government — the full gamut,” said Greenstein, adding good public speakers typically exhibited high-quality research, critical thinking and persuasion.
In February, then-juniors Marc Jacome and Jacob Hurwitz represented Glenbrook South Debate team at Harvard University National Round Robin invitational.
Harvard invited 14 of the top policy debate teams in the country to compete.
Hurwitz and Jacome, as well as student Samantha Varney and sophomore Ben Wolch, reached elimination rounds.
“We have to be dedicated because it can get intense. We constantly research so we can think fast on our feet. We practice a lot,” Jacome said.
He and Hurwitz also topped the field of 40 Chicago-area teams in February to win the Evanston Township High School Invitational.
“But we do get flustered at times during a debate. It happens to most of us,” said Jacome, of Glenview.
Thirteen different debates and speeches were scheduled during the Glenbrook tournament, one of which was titled the annual Lincoln-Douglas debate for varsity and junior varsity teams.
In 1858, U.S. Senate candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated in seven Illinois congressional districts over the issue of slavery.
Sabina Manzini, a sophomore at Meadows High School in Las Vegas, sat on the floor outside a conference room earnestly peering into a laptop.
“The Lincoln-Douglas debate this year is on whether individuals have a moral obligation to assist others. It’s a big deal to win this,” Manzini said.