Alex McHale ’09 Wins Debate Competition at Loomis Chaffee, Qualifies for World Championships in Reading, England

Last Sunday, facts and philosophy paid off for Alex McHale ’09. McHale qualified for the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships by winning a debate competition held at Loomis Chaffee School. Reading Blue Coat School in Reading, England will host the championships from March 27, 2009 to April 3, 2009.? The Loomis Chaffee tournament ended in a tie, but because of McHale’s “rank in room,” he won. ?Rank in room is when the four debaters participating in a round of debate are ranked numerically by the judges on their ability and performance. ?The Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS), which Phillips Academy belongs to, has 12 students in the association who have qualified for Worlds this year. Two, Cassius Clay ’09 and McHale, are from Philomathean Society, Phillips Academy’s debate club.? Students participating in the Loomis Chaffee School Debate Tournament debated if the United States Government should legalize the electronic duplication and transfer of copyrighted media for non-commercial use.? The Loomis Chaffee tournament differed from most debates that Philomathean Society members participate in because it was a switch-side tournament rather than a parliamentary extemporaneous debate. The switch-side format called for McHale and his partner Juliet Liu ’10, Associate News Editor of The Phillipian, to debate for both the affirmative and negative sides. In parliamentary debates, a team only argues one side.? Switch-side debates require extensive research because a resolution is given beforehand, unlike in parliamentary debates. McHale said that Philomathean Society focuses on parliamentary debate, whereas peer schools are more focused on research-based debate because of differences in the nature of their programs.? McHale said, “The fact that we had managed to do so well on an individual level, in spite of this research [aspect to the debate], which is almost a disadvantage compared to these other schools, I think is huge.” Parliamentary and switch-side debates also have different speaking times. McHale’s favorite style of debate is Lincoln-Douglas, which he focused on at a Stanford University camp over the summer. McHale likes Lincoln-Douglas style debate because it is “much more research intensive and much more philosophical.” McHale has been a member of Philomathean Society since his Junior year.? “My first debate tournament as a freshman actually was Loomis Chaffee, the very same tournament I just won. It’s been a wonderful four years. I worked my way up slowly but surely through the ranks. It’s definitely been the highlight of my high school experience,” he said. “I’ve always been a guy that is interested in ideas…discourse, and playing off of different sides of things,” McHale said. McHale added that he hopes to pursue debate in college, and is most interested in trying policy debate, which is very research intensive.? “For me, I don’t know if I want to be a lawyer, or a politician, or a businessman, or what,” he said. “But I think it’s probably one of those three, and I think that no matter what I want to do, debate is going to be the best preparation.” McHale said that the most important things that he has learned from debate are to keep an open mind and to persevere.? “It was a really, really, long, hard road to get to this point, but the fact that I finally made it made everything seem so worth it,” said McHale.? Elisabeth Tully, Director of the Library and Faculty Advisor to Philomathean Society, said, “This is the third year in a row that students from Phillips have qualified for Worlds, and it’s quite an honor.”? Tully said that it is especially difficult to qualify for Worlds because the judging of debates is subjective, and can be inconsistent.? Tully continued, “Alex worked very hard this year, beginning last summer when he went to debate camp to prepare himself with the skills he needed to really perform at a high level this year. So, I was very happy to see him qualify.”