Philo Sponsors Annual Andover Invitational Debate Tournament

Last Sunday, the Phillips Academy Philomathean Society hosted the annual Andover Invitational debate tournament, as Andover faced teams from eight schools, including Phillips Exeter Academy, Groton Academy, Roxbury Latin, Winsor Academy, St. Sebastian’s Academy, Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall, and Governor Dummer Academy. Teams debated whether or not Congress should pass an Amendment to the United States Constitution which would require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in all public schools. Debaters competed in Advanced and Novice Divisions, and each school was allowed to send a maximum of two teams per division. Andover sent four teams to the Invitational for a total of sixteen PA students who debated. Philomathean Board members did not debate at the event but spent their time judging and scoring events. Each team was made up of four debaters and a judge. Judges included faculty members, parents, and experienced student debaters. Every team was split into two pairs, arguing either the “affirmative” or the “negative” viewpoint, before debaters faced students from other schools with the opposite viewpoint. “Affirmative” debaters focused their arguments by claiming that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance would increase patriotism. They also argued that this recitation would give students an identity, and that the Pledge would allow students to come together as Americans and forget their differences. Those who argued against the recitation of the Pledge questioned the right of the federal government to interfere in matters of education, because this matter is generally left up to the states in accordance with the 10th Amendment. They also cited the matter of freedom of speech in the 1st Amendment. Another issue which arose is the constitutionality of the phrase “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The format for each round started off with seven-minute constructive speeches, followed by three-minute cross-examinations, and finally a four-minute rebuttal given by each debater. The three rounds all took place Sunday afternoon in various classrooms in Samuel Phillips Hall and Morse Hall. “This debate, since it’s in-house, is always a good opportunity for entry-level debaters to get their feet wet,” Philomathean Society Co-Head of Interscholastic Debating Julie Bramowitz ’03 said. The debaters were judged on six categories; Evidence, Refutation, Logic, Delivery, Organization and Analysis. Each category was scored from one to five, for a total perfect score of thirty points. The scores from three rounds were then added up and awards were handed out for best affirmative two-man team, best negative two-man team, and best four-man team. According to Philo Faculty Adviser and Instructor in History Robert Crawford, Sunday’s tournament of eight schools was smaller than usual. Although an invitation to the tournament was sent out to all members of the Debate Association of Independent New England Schools, some schools were not present because of the snowstorm that hit most of New England on Saturday night. Other schools, such as Deerfield Academy and Northfield Mount Hermon, had long weekends which prevented students from attending the event. “Though the storm held the numbers down… and it was a small showing, the debate went well overall,” Mr. Crawford said. All of the schools that competed in the Invitational were notified of the debate topic towards the end of November. For more than two months, students researched Constitutional law and previous Supreme Court cases affecting the legality of adding an Amendment mandating students to recite the pledge. “We checked out books, looked online and consulted the library reserves that are always set aside for Philo. Everyone researches on their own first, and then we get together to talk about it and make copies so that we’re all on the same page,” Philo member Daria Axelrod ’04 remarked. After the final scores were tabulated, a team from the Winsor School won the four-man prize in the Novice division, and a team from Groton Academy won the Advanced division. According to Philo Co-President Alex Minasian ’03, the Andover team of Tyler Hill ’05 and Nick Smith Wang ’05 did especially well, placing third for the advanced affirmative two-man debate. Travis Green ‘04, Jami Makan ‘04, and Nathan Pirakitikular ‘05 also faired well in the Novice division.