In her free time, Tiffany Chang ’19 practices “spreading” in her room, a technique of speed reading arguments used in the one-on-one rounds of Lincoln-Douglas (L.D.) debate.
This year, Chang has qualified for the Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.), which will take place in April. The T.O.C. is a national high school debate tournament considered the most prestigious competition among debaters that compete in the National Circuit, a group of national tournaments that allow debaters to qualify for the T.O.C.
“I’m very excited to go to the T.O.C. because it’s been a goal that I’ve worked towards since [Junior] Year. There were a lot of times when I was uncertain that I would be able to continue L.D. at Andover, mostly because it was a new activity for the school,” said Chang.
“The T.O.C. is literally the biggest debate tournament in our nation. It is where the best of the best go, and Tiffany definitely belongs there,” said Karen Sun ’20, another L.D. debater.
Last year, the T.O.C. brought together 86 qualified debaters at the University of Kentucky. In addition to L.D. debate, the competition holds rounds in Policy, Public Forum, and Congressional debate styles.
The L.D. debate style focuses on philosophy and its applications to real-world policies and decisions. In rounds, individuals will debate on how different arguments play out both philosophically and practically.
“The reason why I found value in L.D. in middle school and particularly even now, is that it really exposes you to a wide variety of literature bases in the process of researching these topics,” said Chang.
Chang continued her passion for L.D. from middle school upon coming to Andover. At the end of her Junior year, she established Andover’s L.D. debate team with the help of Hijoo Son, Instructor in History, who is currently on a leave of absence. Currently, Alec Walker, Teaching Fellow in History, advises the team.
Now, Chang leads a small team of Andover students to various competitions around the United States.
Sun said, “I think what I love most about L.D. is that there are just simply no ‘rules.’ It’s not a traditional form of debate like Public Forum or [Extemporaneous Parliamentary], where there are a ton of rules that are applied and a lot of traditions that are encouraged to be upheld.”
Ryan Owyang ’19, another member of the team, said “I like the format because of its focus on philosophical arguments rather than policy-focused arguments.”
Andover’s L.D. team currently consists of six members: Chang, Sun, Owyang, Justin Chang ’19, Olivia Tung ’20, and Junah Jang ’20. The members range from having years of L.D. experience to beginning as novice debaters.
This weekend, the final competition of the year for Andover’s L.D. team will be the forty-fourth annual Harvard Invitational Tournament, where each competing individual debates on a topic that they have prepared for and researched for over two months.
According to Chang, the topic of the Harvard Invitational is whether or not plea bargaining should be abolished in the United States criminal justice system. The members of the team have been gathering research and arguments in preparation for their rounds, a process called “cutting cards.”
Owyang said, “Team-wise, we’re pretty small, so most of us know each other. It gets pretty informal sometimes. You can just text a teammate to meet up and [work on cases] together.”
Chang is hopeful that L.D’s popularity will grow in coming years.