By BENICIA STAFF
If you wanted to know about affirmative action in the college admissions process being abolished, or if you simply wanted to be entertained with a highly-informative moon landing discussion, Debate Week was the place to be at. This student-led activity took place at Room L2/L3 on days Wednesday, December 12 to Friday, December 14. Speech & Debate teacher Ms. Gaines and Debate Coach John Gaines ran this year’s lunchtime debates. BHS Alum Tim Knox originally started Debate and occasionally returns to campus to help the debate teams. In fact, Ms. Gaines notes how Benicia High Debate competes with surrounding Bay Area teams through the Golden Gate Speech Association, where “they have distinguished themselves this year – nearly all winning trophies in their categories.” Three years strong, 2018 Lunchtime Debate Week was sure to prove informative and enjoyable not only to the participants but the audience who’d come to witness an amazing program of Benicia High.
On Wednesday the first resolution, or debate topic, discussed was ‘The United States’ use of targeted killing in foreign countries is unjust.’ Joseph Perez (12) and Xavier Reese (12) were for the resolution, and Krishna (10) and Niall Mandal (10) were against the resolution. For the first part of the Debate, there was a contention (a claim) from the negative side, Krishna (10), that the US’ use of targeted killing in foreign countries is unjust. Krishna mentioned the 9/11 foreign attack as an example; a war broke out in Afghanistan between its people and the US on October 7, 2001, because US was attacked so fighting this foreign area was just. But proposition debater Joseph (12) asserted that US’ foreign attacks wouldn’t be justified without the guidance of truth or lawfulness. Joseph mentioned that 95% of supposed “targeted killing” wasn’t even the intended target percentage.
Second contention from the opposition side is that targeted killing is the most efficient way to kill the enemy, according to Krishna’s partner Niall (10). “It exists because it has to,” Niall delivered. On the other hand Xavier (12) from the proposition side addresses how Osama Bin Laden, who orchestrated the 9/11 attack, was tried and charged with crime. In this exception, Bin Laden’s actions did justify the targeted killing, unlike the aforementioned 95%, the unintended target number made up of children, mothers, and the elderly. Xavier didn’t fail to also mention the unjust killing of US citizens who stayed in the warring areas.
Crossfire, the next thing on the debate, is when the two sides address each other’s contentions. Niall kept with his explicit statement that the targeted should be killed. Like how many military-men die in the war, they aren’t initially targeted so it’s okay. Xavier heard what Niall was trying to say, but that propelled him to argue that areas can be targeted but shooting blindly isn’t the most successful approach; there might be collateral damage, like lost innocent human lives.
Summaries was the last item on the debate. Pro-arguer Krishna argues it to be humane and legal, following law, while anti-arguer Joseph states it isn’t. For ‘Final Quotes’, the two teams would thank the judges for their time and persuade the judges to pick them as the winning debaters. While thanking the judges, Niall didn’t also fail to express how the proposition side lacked in sufficient statistics, to which Xavier argued that they too did have evidence, “We’re talking about countries, we’re talking about different years, we were all over the place for our argument, so I don’t know what you’re talking about there.” Xavier continued to explain how targeted killing overseas isn’t solely based on the question of operating outside of the justice system or not, but that the US is just indiscriminately killing their own citizens and other citizens in the world while the US is not even at war at this current moment. In the end, the team that won was the opposition side Krishna and Niall Mandal.
On Thursday, the resolution was ‘Affirmative action in the college admission process should be abolished.’ Benicia Staff wasn’t able to make it this day, but we were able to interview one of the debaters, Ethan Ancheta (12), who was opposing the resolution with Jun Cheng (11). “When I found out that I won, I was very happy, because I knew that my opponents were very experienced and strong speakers.” Ethan also was proud of his co-debater Jun since it was his first formal debate. The proposition side, Atom Ruiz (12) and LaPaula Parker (12), argued that affirmative action should be abolished. In the end, the opposition side won with 2-1 against the proposition side. One of the audience members, Benji Ryujin (11), thought his original idea regarding the resolution shifted, “Yeah I think during the crossfire especially, both sides brought about strong points but Jun said an idea that I hadn’t even thought about before. I came into the debate with a pretty impartial mindset, but after the debate I feel much more educated on what affirmative action is and what it means for the US.”
On Friday, the resolution was ‘It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the moon landing was not faked.’ Dahlia (12) and Ameera Elgonemy (12) were for the argument, while Emily Boe (11) and Tristan Keene (11) were against the argument. Affirmative side debater Dahlia stated her first contention; and, it’s that ‘400,000 technicians, scientists, and engineers worked on the Moon Landing Project.’ However, negative side debater Emily Boe addressed how 1969 was a time US was battling against Soviet Union in the “space war,” and that there’s an extensive record of failing space missions for the US. Then, crossfire occurred where pro-debater Dahlia addressed the famous moon landing picture Emily brought up earlier: the rock with a mysterious ‘c.’
Emily furthered the photo argument and argued how pictures can still be doctored. The proposition brought up the point of how photoshopping wasn’t invented until 1987, yet the opposition didn’t believe that to be a good rebuttal statement as you could still adjust the pictures without photoshopping equipment. Ameera also repeated the original contention of the 400,000 staff members on the moon landing project, and the curious reason why not one of the aforementioned 400,000 confessed to the news media. Addressing the picture again, Ameera pointed out the even distribution of sunlight that caused the paralleled shadows, a feature that studio lights could not imitate.
However, Tristan added how US didn’t possess the necessary material for the moon landing. Tristan from the anti-side stated how there should be reasonable doubt, and if the audience members started to doubt, then the opposition side did their job. Ameera from the pro-side said the conclusions from the pro-side is “entirely unreasonable”. Proposition side Dahlia and Ameera Elgonemy won.
But in spite of all the heat debate often can evoke from debaters, Ameera and Tristan agreed this debate was “fun!” Tristan was in speech and debate so she had a lot of guidance from Ms. Gaines earlier. But debates like this persuaded people to change their initial thoughts. Ameera appreciates her team’s opponents because they did a really good job, which made for a more entertaining and rewarding debate. Even Ms. Gaines received a few doubts on the “moon landing conspiracy” debate, but she was proud; “As it turned [out], our top students and debaters in the school brought a lot of support to their arguments.” While there are serious topics like the first resolution with “killing” in the title, there should also be a balance with “high-interest issues,” as Ms. Gaines would call it.
Behind all of this, too, is senior debate captains, Neha Yadav (12) and Liam Madigan (12). Devoting time outside of their already busy regular school schedule, it can get pretty tough to juggle everything. “It can get pretty stressful for both Liam and me. We’d have to find time to come up with the resolutions. We originally wanted more people for the debate but we worked with what we got and everything turned out well in the end. This week was a preliminary week and we plan to have a full one next semester.” Benicia High looks forward to that.
Three years in the making, Benicia High’s Debate Program nurtures the fighting spirits of all debaters. But Debate Week definitely required a lot from all participants, yet it’s still found to be enjoyable. Some students got to debate with their siblings not against them, like Niall and Krishna Mandal, and Dahlia and Ameera Elgonemy. Dahlia especially enjoyed it because she knew how “insanely smart” Ameera was as a debater. And some people who have never officially participated in these lunchtime debates, finally did. Like Tristan Keene, “I like debate because it makes me think quicker on my feet, which is not my strong suit at all!”
Lunchtime debates will be an annual thing, but keep an ear out for the next debate, which is on Saturday, January 26 at a place TBD.