PHC Debate Team Accelerates in International League

Fresh from competing at the 2013 World Universities Debating Championships in Berlin, beating two teams from Cambridge and one from Dublin, Patrick Henry College Professor of Rhetoric and Director of Debate Dr. Jim Tallmon was almost beside himself. “Finishing within the top ten percent of teams in the world is now within reach,” he said. “The Berlin experience confirmed to us that this is where we want to be and that, by God’s grace, we have what it takes to be competitive in this league.” Added debater Blake Meadows: “The World Championship was an amazing experience both from a competitive perspective as well as for the cultural dialogue. For me, British Parli is more than just a chance to debate. It is an opportunity to influence the cultural conversation that is ongoing between the best and brightest from around the world. This cultural dialogue is unique to British Parli and is why I debate in this league.”

While Patrick Henry College’s forensics teams have performed well in recent years, the team’s leadership felt led to explore other leagues that rewarded a debate-style consistent with Patrick Henry College’s institutional ethos, with sharper competition and argumentation. What they discovered was the World Universities Debating Union British Parliamentary style debate.

“It’s been a long journey to find a league that best reinforces Patrick Henry College’s ideals,” said John Ehrett, junior student assistant coach in charge of mentoring. “To take things to the next level, we need to continue engaging with the world’s top debaters on the international stage. I can’t think of a better avenue than Worlds Debate to truly ‘lead the nation and shape the culture.’ International travel is one of the best tools in our arsenal for accomplishing that.” “Worlds Debate” is a global debating league, emphasizing broad knowledge of current events, quick wit, and rhetorical skills. It demands students’ best and pits them against opponents from the best universities in the world, including many Ivy League schools, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Limerick, and schools from Australia, Asia, Africa, India, and the Americas. This year Patrick Henry College’s debaters competed in Toronto, Oxford, Cambridge, and Berlin.

Patrick Henry College Debate has been able to successfully engage the culture of ideas that British Parliment represents,” Meadows said. “I have found this venue to be an incredible cultural opportunity both to engage with the ideas of others and to represent the ideas we hold dear as an institution.” Before the Oxford and Cambridge tournaments, Patrick Henry College debate alumni helped current students prepare. “Many Ivy League schools avoid quality debate leagues, or practice a style of debate considered sophistic,” said Isaiah McPeak, former Patrick Henry College coach, and debater. “Patrick Henry College’s successful quest for a competitive arena puts the team in the deepest end of the pool on the widest range of topics. That’s exactly where we need to be and what the College’s mission is all about.”

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