Deer Park took gold at district Cross Examination (CX) Debate on Saturday, January 23rd, sending undefeated partners Julianne Butler (junior) and Hayden Logan (senior) to the state competition in Austin, Texas over spring break. The win came after difficult preparation.
“It’s really impressive to me that the students were able to pull off a win with limited resources, limited prep time, against students who are to be honest much more experienced than them,” Speech and Debate coach, teacher for next year’s Speech and Debate class, and past Deer Park High School CX debater Caleb Edwards said.
“The biggest [practice we had] was one eight hour practice the Saturday before the competition where we all showed up and went over the case this year and the argumentation for the specific topics,” Julianne Butler said. “[I was] mostly shock in reality I did not think we were going to make it that far I thought we might place fourth when we found out we were undefeated in the rounds I asked Edwards if he had meant to say we had been defeated every single time,” Butler said. Similarly, “I was more amazed that since I got to state my first competition and with a topic I had just learned the night before. My sister was super excited,” Logan said.
Of all the components of CX debate, communication between teammates during a round of debating can present the biggest challenge, especially when the team hasn’t gotten to spend a lot of time together. “This was my first time to really sit down and talk to [Julianne]. We had talked for about five minutes before,” Logan said. However, a naturally good team dynamic goes a long way. “She’s definitely better when it comes to countering people’s arguments and she knows more about the procedures and circumvention and things like that, but I was better at persuading the judges and taking apart the opponent’s argument,” Logan said.
As for the future, the team has big plans. “I think we’re at a really good place with the caliber of student that wants to be a part of this program; I think we’re in a really good place with the support we’ve gotten from the high school as well as from the district administration- they’ve been very supportive of re-energizing this program- I think they understand the financial as well as educational benefits of speech and debate for students,” Edwards said. Specifically, “I understand that speech and debate doesn’t really have a lot of financial income for the school the way that our athletic events do, but it has a lot of financial appeal for students because there’s a lot of scholarships that students otherwise wouldn’t be able to get because there’s nothing else for them,” Edwards said. Additionally, “Any and all students particularly those who don’t participate in sports and for those who find public speaking or argumentation difficult, or those who find it enjoyable, either or. Or those who need to work on their communication skills, or those who have good communication skills,” Butler said. So Speech and Debate has a variety of benefits that will benefit students of all backgrounds, whether academic superstars looking for more avenues of development, athletes wanting to become more well rounded, or any other student that wants a challenge and a chance to pick up some money for higher education.
For students considering signing up for Speech and Debate class next year, they can experience a few kinds of debate before the end of the year. “We still have the UIL academic competition where we’ll have events like prose, poetry, extemp, Lincoln Douglass. So students that want to do those events, or any others next year, preparing for that event might be a good way to see what events are available, kind of see if debate is something they want to do next year,” Edwards said. Taking Speech and Debate offers students an opportunity to round out their education, shine on their college and scholarship
applications, and develop assertiveness and eloquence that will serve them throughout their professional career. “It has significantly improved my writing skills to where I can write significantly more in less time. It has improved my ability to speak at high speeds and be understood,” Butler said. Additionally, “I think it significantly improves your ability to argue and win and [improves] the ability to accept defeat… Some of the best teams lose. Some of the worst teams win,” Butler said.
In addition to the monetary rewards available, the primary reward lies in winning. This requires self-driven effort on the part of the debaters as well as team practice, making victory that much more worthy of pride. “The last few years we’ve had some, naturally gifted students who with very little assistance from me other than an explanation, have been able to win our district and compete very well at state,” Edwards said. For Julianne Butler and Hayden Logan, though, this year’s district marks their first time to qualify for state. “This year… we really had to put a lot more work… into winning a district. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have a lot of time to put that work in with everybody’s schedule,” Edwards said. Furthermore, “Our opponents had competed at least one tournament. They’re also multiple year students who just have more experience,” Edwards said. Therefore, much more work lies ahead of the team as spring break approaches. “I think they’re going to need a lot more work to be competitive at state, but the two that are going, they have a work ethic that I think will benefit them in that preparation. They’re prepared to do the work, now it’s just a matter of finding the time and the resources,” Edwards said. So far, “He’s called us into small practices with just the two of us so he can work with us in perfecting our arguments and just in getting to know each other better so we can communicate more effectively,” Butler said.