Isaiah Back-Gaal, ’15
One Friday this past February four members of the BHSEC Debate team journeyed to a midtown law firm for a debate tournament. It was the first day of the two-day City Championship Tournament hosted by the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL), and it was the debate team’s first time ever attending. After some difficulty we made our way to the fiftieth floor and into the law firm. We debated in an unfamiliar, corporate setting, were judged by professional lawyers, and with a spectacular view of the city behind us, argued as the sun went down.
The next day we attended day two of the tournament, this time at the Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE). Next Monday, March 24, after the invigorating, sometimes frustrating tournament, we went to the year-end NYUDL awards ceremony at United States District Courthouse in Brooklyn. BHSEC’s two teams tied for first place in the Varsity Public Forum division: we were the city champions!
We hadn’t been to a tournament in months, and yet we showed up to this two-day tournament, did our best, and won. Throughout the successful year of debate, that had mostly been the BHSEC debate team’s approach to tournaments. Unlike other schools’ debate teams, we do not meet very regularly, have no funding, no coach, and are student-led. The BHSEC debate team is truly an anomaly in the debate world; however, our debaters are fantastic.
The debate team is a fledgling club, but this year it grew considerably. In the fall we gained many freshman, sophomores, and a few Year 1s who were eager to test out debate. Of course, as it always goes, not everyone who signed up at the club fair is still part of the club today; however, those who do remain are incredibly committed to debate.
That is probably one of the reasons why the club did so well this year: commitment. The other debate captains and I were constantly awed by the devotion that new students, especially freshmen, showed to the club. For the tournaments that we did go to, everyone brought an energy that was incredibly contagious, that excited us all to argue with a passion. Spirits were high even when we prepared for the wrong resolution and had to debate a completely new topic at the first tournament of the year. Despite the embarrassment and unlucky circumstances, BHSEC still came away as the second best school in the entire tournament. Furthermore, one of our freshmen won first place in her division – this being her first debate ever!
The awards ceremony at the Brooklyn courthouse turned out to be a ceremony for the entire debate year. To our delight, multiple BHSEC debaters won speaker and team awards for the skill and devotion they had shown throughout the year. We brought home more trophies and awards than we could carry, the biggest of which are hiding on a shelf in Dr. Lerner’s office. If you ask politely I am sure he will let you see them.
This year brought many changes to the debate club. It was the first year with new leaders after club founder and alumna Hannah Frishberg graduated. This year the team grew to be its biggest yet, and attended more tournaments than ever before. After many incredible successes, the BHSEC Debate team is looking forward to next year’s debate season with anticipation and excitement.