Discussing Debate: North Atlanta Students Debate Over Zoom


Dennis Racket

Don’t Hate, Debate: Warrior debaters adapt and persevere through new competition formatting.

The debate team is yet another North Atlanta club determined to succeed despite the circumstances put upon them by the coronavirus pandemic. Led by co-captains Ava Tomlin and Curran Mitra, as well as teacher sponsors Mike Robinson and James Jones, the team meets every Wednesday at roughly 3:00. There, attendees are encouraged to participate in practice debates with each other. Tournaments occur about once a month, where students from different schools in Atlanta compete against each other in debate rounds. 

This year, the topic of debate is mass incarceration. In practice and in tournaments, students must argue both sides using evidence from the policy packet provided to them. During meetings, the mock debates are sometimes centered on the policy packet, other times on different subjects entirely. These practices are intended to help participants hone their debate skills and prepare them for the tournaments. Those who choose to attend the tournaments must also practice individually and in their free time. 

But the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced a host of new issues that the debate team must deal with, including the format of the tournaments, the process of recruiting new members, determining the most efficient way to run practices, etc. The tournaments are now conducted online, and certain speaking portions in them are longer, others are shorter, and some have been eliminated altogether. The club’s new online setting also complicates the process of spreading awareness about the debate team, which makes it difficult to recruit new members

Despite this, the debate team performed admirably during its first two tournaments. Feedback from the judges was overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of competitors from North Atlanta winning one or more of their debate rounds. “Overall, we’ve been able to adapt much better than I initially thought we would,” said junior Curran Mitra, co-captain of the debate team.

Thus, most members of the team are confident that success is still within reach, now and in the future. Together, they have been striving to be the best that they can be. “Covid-19 has changed a lot about debate,” said junior Ava Tomlin, also co-captain of the debate team. “But thanks to the really awesome and dedicated team we have this year, we’ve already done amazing things and I know that we’ll continue to do so.”

Multiple members of the debate team have testified to their enjoyment of the club, even with the online format. According to them, it strengthens their public speaking and argument skills as well as providing the thrill of a good debate. “Debate has definitely been a learning experience,” said sophomore Ella Kaufman, a newcomer to the team. “I love arguing using the facts given, regardless of what side I’m on.”

All things considered, the debate team is still the place to be for anyone with a passion for debate and public policy.