OHS Pixels in Debate


The 2022 debate season is now in full swing, and the debate team here at OHS is preparing for their first in person debate tournaments since the pandemic. Here’s a look into everything happening with the debate club. 

Headed by co-leaders Benjamin Klieger and Ferris Haukom, the club meets every Friday at 2pm. This year’s main goals, Benjamin says, is to focus on “educating our members and strengthening their debate skills to prepare for tournaments. We hope to cultivate great memories, strong debate skills, and expand our member’s critical thinking, research, and public speaking abilities.”

The debate club primarily centers around Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, and World Schools debate. Out of the three styles of debate, Lincoln Douglas is the oldest, originating in 1858 when Abraham Lincoln ran against Stephan A. Douglas and the two engaged in a series of seven debates.  Its content focuses around two individual debaters arguing for and against a provided resolution, with the topic of the resolution changing once every two months. 

We hope to cultivate great memories, strong debate skills, and expand our member’s critical thinking, research, and public speaking abilities.”

— Benjamin Klieger

Worlds School Debate is the second oldest of the three, founded in 1985 and centered around international topics. Though the style of debate has been around for quite a while, it gained wide traction within the past five years. Public forum debate is the newest style of debate, having been founded in 2002 by CNN’s Ted Turner. It’s similar to LD, but has teams of two competing against one another instead of being an individual activity. Despite being the youngest form of debate, Public Forum has become highly popular, offered at hundreds of tournaments across the country every year.  

As Benjamin says, the team is currently “focusing on the former two for tournaments this year, but also exploring the latter to try a new form of debate that the club has historically not explored before!” Over the past three years, debate has been moved to an online format due to the pandemic. All around the country, tournaments were held virtually instead of on school grounds like they were previously. In person events stopped happening, and school practices shifted into zoom rooms. During this time, debaters at OHS were able to focus on building their debate skills and practice putting them to the test. 


Now that tournaments are moving back to being in person events held at high schools and colleges across America, a huge transition is taking place. Online debate has had the major benefit of making the activity more accessible to students. Without having to worry about plane ticket prices and booking hotel rooms, many more students from smaller schools without robustly funded debate programs were able to compete from home. 

The move to in person debate does mean more logistical work to register for and attend tournaments, but despite these changes, in person debate as an activity is still an extremely exciting event that many are looking forward to. Benjamin says, “Online debate is definitely a different experience from in person debate. When I competed in policy debate online, I was in a discord voice chat with my partner who was across the country. There are benefits from debate being online, such as convenience, safety, and accessibility, but I think everyone is excited to go back to tournaments in person. It is tough to beat the in person debate experience!”

The opportunities to meet friends in person, meet new people in rounds, and engage in debate in person again bring the fun and life back into the sport. For example, Benjamin says that he has “many fond memories of attending the Stanford invitationals in person a few years back.”

As for tentative tournament schedules, Benjamin says that OHS debaters are “planning to attend the Stanford Invitationals, which we have attended previously every year they have been hosted.” The Stanford Invitational will be held online, which he says will “help open the competition up to everyone who wishes to compete!” The Berkeley tournament however, will be held in person, and Benjamin says that the team is also “looking into the Cal Berkeley tournament, which would give the club a chance to attend an in person tournament as well.”

As for the future of the debate team, Benjamin says “Ferris and I envision our club members gaining new essential skills (such as research, critical thinking, and public speaking), and having great debate experiences. We hope for these experiences to further their debate skills and personal development. Join the Debate Club!”