Debate at HCHS

For the second year, my friend and colleague Suzan Phenicie hosted a campus political debate. Phenicie, using the help of other faculty members, selected four students to participate in the debate. Phenicie, myself, and others including our department chair evaluated and modified a number of excellent debate questions submitted by students and members of the faculty. I served as a judge with several others to determine the winner of the contest; we all used a rubric designed by Phenicie to “objectively” decide a winner. The key thing I listened to was the extent at which a student used prepared research to back his or her argument. I felt this was a reasonable way to evaluate the contest seeing that students knew the questions in advance. Plus, two of my favorites were participating thus I could not afford to be biased in my ruling.


Above: Sarah Salinas — one of my students in the debate has her very own fan club. This group makes up my  United States history class.


Above are two of my favorite students. Jon Magiera and Sarah Salinas  prepare for the political contest

Here are the questions asked to both groups:

1. Is it an invasion of privacy for HCHS to monitor off campus activities such as Facebook and parties and punish students based on this behavior?

2. Should someone who attends a private school have to pay public school taxes?

3. Texas currently grants automatic admission to students who are in the top 10% of their graduating class. Should this policy be done away with?

4. The five reasons for government are to maintain social order, provide public services, provide for national security, common defense and and economic system. Is the United States government over stepping these powers in regard to the possible nationalization of certain financial institutions.

5. Should people who have self inflicted disabilities such as drug drug/alcohol abuse be allowed to receive government disability benefits?

6. Obama lifted the ban on embryonic  sten cell research, which was established by Bush. Do you agree with Obama’s decision?

7.  Is the alliance with Israel beneficial to the U.S?


Above: Dillon and Carson chatting before we judged the debate. Dillon makes that tie look good.


Above: HCHS chapel just before the debate.


Above: Patrick and Joe getting ready for Sarah and Jon

7 thoughts on “Debate at HCHS

  1. Carson, I believe that we should intensify the debate, that was very weak, next year, I hope that the debate will actually be somewhat valid. And this is not just a bash upon the students or teachers participating, but some of the responses astounded me in lack of knowledge. Such as the famous “blood” response to the embryonic stem cell research. He did not know the time period in which the embryos where taken, which is before the 18 days which he claimed meant that they were alive, invalidating his argument. However, both sides had thier unpreparedness, and I believe that it was judged fairly and effectively, however, I would like to see more academic prowess if we are going to use up time during a school day to watch it.

  2. Scott,

    I know that I personally submitted some very controversial questions for the debate, however, the higher-ups did not want students questioning the school’s ethical beliefs.

    But yes, some of the responses were a bit weak – on both sides. And I agree that this debate was lacking in academic prowess.

  3. I’m not a favorite anymore Carson?……lol

    I will admit to being a little scattered in my thoughts when I approached the blood question. My intentions were to show that Blood really is the essence of life in a human being. However, I do not think that I made clear my argument about blood being present in an embryo. What was intended was that an embryonic heart begins to circulate blood through its heart at sometime between twenty and twenty five days (I had two sources so I am going to approximate for both) and considering that most advertised pregnancy tests are advertised as accurate for five days, I came up with the number of “about 18.” That is only under the best of circumstances though. While true that stem cells are extracted between 7 to 14 days after fertilization, many parents dont know for weeks that they are actually pregnant because the mother hasn’t had time to miss her period yet. The way that I emphasized my thoughts after that were a complete mess though, I totally agree. My intention was to present the fact that there are many different alternatives to the destruction of an embryonic stem cell.

    Had we had the chance to have a rebuttal though (quite a hindrance to the team that speaks first I would think), I would have pointed out that there have been absolutely no breakthroughs through embryonic stem cell research since its proposal and institution 10 years ago, therefore, there is no justification for its implementation. I am happy that Sarah and John won though, I have great respect for them both and I know that the Audience wanted them to win.

    I would like to say though that the judges did have a small part in the unpreparedness category. Dillon was quite a harsh critic and perhaps a bit too partisan to be a judge (sorry, you know I like you as a person, but you were the only one with such a huge gap in the scoring). Sarah’s fifth amendment speech in regards to facebook, while convincing, held absolutely no water in the context of the question. We were asked about privacy in regards to the school we all attend, not all schools in general. Sadly, Houston is a Private Institution that one must sign a contract to attend. Thus, your constitutional rights are forfeit when we attend because they have the given rights to do as the please as long as it is mentioned in the handbook.

    To tell the truth though, I really was not motivated to do the debate after hearing all of the rules that were put in place and the questions that we were doing. Truthfully, some of the questions are not even going to apply to us in a few short years. I would have much rather done an individualized, strictly-political (world affairs), debate based on questions sent by the students and chosen by the students. Perhaps even had the students ask them point blank from microphones set up in the isles. I had fun though and it was great to see John do his ending soliloquy though. Que será, será.

  4. Patrick,

    I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed to hear that you and the rest of the contestants saw my scoring sheet. Whether it was given to you or you just “happened to see it,” you should not have been able to look at it.

    Yes, I am biased, but so was everyone else at the table. If the gap in my scoring was in your favor, you most likely would not be complaining. My scoring had nothing to do with whether or not I agreed with the contestants responses. I was trying to give you and Joe the benefit of the doubt, but you both lacked in presentation and evidential support for your arguments. While Jon and Sarah reviewed court cases and such, you and Joe presented your arguments without much support – and I would hardly consider the Bible evidence. In addition, John and Sarah made sure to give plenty of background information on whatever subject they were addressing, while many of your responses left me, and the audience, confused. I also got VERY tired of hearing “you know” and “I think.” Because, I actually do not know, and do not care what you think.

    Bottom line: Jon and Sara were far more prepared and put-together that you and Joe were. I should not have to explain my decision to you, as you should not have seen my scoring sheet, but I just thought you would like to know how I made the decision that I did.

  5. Dillon,

    Perhaps I did not make myself clear, I am not in any way upset by the way that the debate turned out. Yes, Mrs. Phenicie did allow me and the other contestants to view the Judges score sheets, but not so that we could have somebody to vent our frustrations to. One of the fundamentals to success in the world today is to continue to improve upon the god-given talents that he so graciously presented to us. Well, the only way to do that is to get feedback from others about what you did wrong. I learned the importance of a balanced distribution of solid statistical evidence and pure biblical/moral opinion. I had feared being the “person in the white lab jacket” simply reading off statistics to people because I wanted to keep it interesting. It turns out that that is what the audience and judges wanted more of though and that is a lesson that I will not soon forget. I was not asking you to explain you opinion because there is no question that Sarah and Jon maintained their intensity throughout the debate (every other judge rated John and Sarah higher than Joe and myself). My statement was more an issue of statistical precision. Perhaps your assessment was more accurate, it is not mine to judge (however, I would hope that the judges were not soft enough to think that sensitivity would play any part in this). And for the record, I don’t consider my comment a complaint because I am not asking for anything to be taken back and re-scored. I would have commented even if I had been the victor just to get a better prospective of what I and my colleagues did right and wrong so that we can improve (I hope that yo understand). I hardly consider myself an unbiased person and would have found it difficult to forget that up on stage as well. I could hardly fault you for having such a problem (if there was even an issue in the first place). I wish you the best of luck in your participation next year and look forward to helping in any way that I can.

    P.S. Props on the Metty quote about apathy. That was one of my favorite things she said all year.

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