Philomathean Society Delegation Places 2nd At Deerfield; Two Andover Novices Tie for First

With impressive team and individual performances, Phillips Academy’s Philomathean Society placed second at the Deerfield Invitational Debate with a score one point behind Hotchkiss, this year’s winner. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to debate at the end of the year without the pressure of qualifying for future competitions or trying to impress colleges,” Alex McHale ’09, incoming President of Philomathean Society said. On May 4, Philo’s debaters competed against students from Hotchkiss, Exeter, Deerfield, Loomis Chaffee, Choate, Groton and St. Paul’s, among other schools, all members of the Debate Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS). The Deerfield Invitational Debate is the last of the 2007-2008 school year, and was the last chance for Seniors to compete before graduate. Vice President of Philomathean Society Cassius Clay ’09 suggested that Hotchkiss’ victory could be attributed in part to the performances of its Seniors, including Emil Constantino, the top scorer in the advanced division, and Caroline Chen, 2007 Debate World Champion. Clay, who placed 13th in the advanced division and was the top scorer for PA, with 267 speaker points, saw personal improvement, as did many member’s of PA’s team. Ben Schley ’08, outgoing Co-President of Philomathean Society, said that PA swept the novice awards. “The performances at Deerfield show lots of promise for the club,” he said. Jennifer Schaffer ’10 and Ben Podell ’11 tied for first place in the novice division with 267 speaking points each. Though Schaffer felt the debate was more relaxed than other debates, without the pressure of qualifying for worlds, she thought the competition was still fierce, because students want to finish the year on a high note. Prior to traveling to Deerfield, Philomathean Society held practice debates to prepare students for the competition. According to Clay, the challenge of advanced debating is the amount of practice required to be successful. Since Philomathean Society is almost entirely a student-organized club, “good debaters teach less experienced students and don’t get a chance to work on their own skills,” Clay said. Phil Meyer ’08, outgoing Co-President of Philomathean Society added that a greater emphasis will be placed on training the advanced debaters next year, so that Phillips Academy debaters can continue at the same level of competition in future years. Unlike many other schools’ debate teams, “[Philomathean Society] has never really had faculty coaches,” Meyer said. McHale said he plans to bring in coaches to extend to the program next year. Meyer stressed the importance of debate as an educational venue where students are obliged to think and speak on their feet and hone their skills in forming strong arguments and logic. Elisabeth Tully, Faculty Advisor to Philomathean Society, said she fully supports increasing training for PA debaters and is excited to see the club moving in that direction. Meyer, Philomathean’s second highest scorer, said he is thrilled with the number of people getting involved in the club and the success he saw in both the novice and advanced divisions at the Deerfield debate as a great culmination of his goals with Philomathean. For McHale, the Deerfield debate demonstrated great promise for the future of Philomathean. “The sky’s the limit,” he said.