Pirates place at state speech and debate tournament


By Kristin Morehouse

Pagosa Springs High School

Six Pirates competed at the Colorado state speech and debate tournament hosted by the Colorado High School Activities Association on Jan. 29 and 30. 

Junior Caroline Smith (Pagosa Springs High School) placed ninth in Colorado and sophomore Amaris Webb (San Juan Mountain School) placed eighth in Colorado. 

Both Smith and Webb competed with 10-minute performances that were different types of literature stitched together to make a powerful message. 

Both of these program oral interpreters made strong social statements of their own by combining published works of others including dialogues, songs, statistics and poems. They took the opportunity to view the world in a critical light while also delivering a positive empowering message to their listeners.

Two students, a freshman and another sophomore, Marie Smith and Carter Kasson, held civil yet impassioned debates with students from across the state of Colorado in One on One Value Debate. Kasson advanced out of prelims to octofinals before being eliminated. Topics discussed were varied and included whether or not schools should require a computer class as a graduation requirement and whether or not grocery stores should sell out-of-season fruit. 

One on One Value Debate is an impromptu event which offers each competitor 30 minutes to craft two opposing debate cases, one that affirms the resolutions and one that negates it. Debaters then flip a coin (virtually) with their judge. One person selects the side they prefer and their competitor selects whether they want to speak first or second. Competitors must be able to think flexibly and quickly as well as be able to keep their thoughts organized while they are expressing them. 

Listening is a key component in debate as in life. You cannot have a civil conversation, an academic debate, without listening to the ideas of your opponent and reflecting on them. Value Debate and Lincoln Douglas debate both have an overt discussion of the underlying values impacting the issues of the round. This is called the framework because it is the lens that each debater wants the round to be judged through. 

Ruth Ann Morehouse and David Morehouse competed in Lincoln Douglas Debate, which requires research and evidence. The resolution that they affirmed and negated was whether or not states ought to ban lethal autonomous weapons. Arguments they made and encountered were in the realm of international affairs, STEM artificial intelligence, and moral philosophies of killing and war. They both had several very close rounds and displayed excellent sportsmanship with their competitors.

This is the Pirates’ fourth year to attend the Colorado state competition and they have improved each year. This marks the end of the state season. 

The team will complete a community outreach tournament that teaches service while introducing elementary and middle school students to the world of speech and debate on National Speech and Debate Education Day in March. Details of the virtual event will be shared soon. The speech and debate team has been training together virtually since September.