History Majors

History Majors Spearhead Debate

On February 18th and 19th, the Saint Anselm College Debate Team competed at the Emerson College Tournament and the Northeast Regional Championships held at Suffolk University. The team finished first place in both competitions for overall Debate Sweepstakes. Of the twelve members of the team, five are history majors: Greg Valcourt ’19, William Bearce ’19, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, Drew Collins ’19, and Ed Frankonis ’19. Both Frankonis and Collins competed at the tournaments, Collins finishing second place in Lincoln-Douglas policy debate at Emerson College and third place in the IPDA debate at the Regional Championships. Frankonis finished first place in Lincoln Douglas policy debate at the Regional Championships and second place in IPDA at Emerson.

Frankonis, a sophomore History major from Maine, chose Saint Anselm College for the small size of the student body. As he explains, “It seemed like it would be easier to get involved here.” As a history major, Frankonis enjoys finding “answers to the questions we ask about our society’s problems . . . in past answers.” One Thing after Another sat down with Frankonis to discuss his recent debate victories and the skills he has developed through the study of history.

The two variations of debate require different preparations and skills. In the Lincoln-Douglas policy debate, students receive a topic in July or August. This year’s topic was the role of the military in Latin America. As Frankonis explains, the debaters “argue for and against the resolution during the tournament.  In each round, you try to defend your evidence, promote your side of the aisle, and try to ‘take away’ parts of your opponent’s argument. The round lasts around twenty minutes, and at the end of it, the judge gives his/her decision.” Preparation for these kinds of debate tournaments is time consuming: “Lincoln-Douglas debaters prepare by meeting twice a week and dedicating around 3-4 hours during those times polishing our cases, refining our arguments, and plugging any holes that were discovered during last tournament. . . 5-6 hours of non-meeting preparation are usually involved for Lincoln-Douglas.”

IPDA, or International Public Debate Forum, on the other hand, tests general knowledge and speaking skills more than the research skills demanded in the Lincoln-Douglas policy debate. According to Frankonis, two debaters “arrive and are given a list of five or so topics. They take turns ‘striking’ each topic, until only one remains  Both debaters then get thirty minutes to prepare an argument (for or against, depending on your role), and then spend around twenty minutes arguing for or against said topic. These topics can range from which superhero is better to the morality of drone warfare, and change each round. After the round, the debaters leave, and the judge makes his/her decision.”

Farnkonis’s dominant performances can be attributed to a supportive team, skills he learns in class, and a lot of practice. After each tournament, the debaters receive ballots from judges that are “chock-full of feedback.” After the team reads this feedback, “[they] share [their] general experiences at the tournament, [and they] exchange insight, share advice, and talk about the mistakes [they] made during rounds.”

Frankonis credits his debate skills to his previous three years of experience in mock Senate debate in high school, as well as the skills he has developed as a history major: “Knowing how institutions came about, how problems evolved, and the stories of the various actors involved in those problems gives debaters a nice edge in round. . . . Other skills learned from being a history major include research skills and the ability to smoothly transition from one debate format to another.” Frankonis thinks skills learned in debate help him in the classroom as well: “being a debater means you are actively learning skills that can be employed in debates over the consequences of historical events.”

After his first-place finish in Lincoln-Douglas policy debate at the Regional Championships, Frankonis received an invite to the National competition. Unfortunately, due to a family commitment, Frankonis will not be attending.  Next year, he plans to permanently and exclusively switch to IPDA, “focusing more on being well-rounded with [his] topic knowledge.”

The debate team currently meets on Mondays and Thursdays on the third floor of Goulet, from 6:30-8:30.

NOTE: In the photograph above, from left to right, are Drew Collins, Greg Valcourt, Ed Frankonis, Lily-Gre Hitchen, and William Bearce. 

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