The Taft Debate Team traveled to Lakeville, CT last week to compete in the seventeenth annual Hotchkiss School Parliamentary Debate Tournament.
More than 120 students from 21 schools competed in the event, which included two rounds of parliamentary debate and two rounds of impromptu speaking. In the parliamentary debate, Morgan Malcolm ’20 and Coco Zhang ’21 won third place novice pair honors. The debate marked Coco’s second outing with Team Taft; it was Morgan’s competitive debut.
“For us, it was very much about teamwork,” says Coco. “We had practiced together during Debate Club meetings and work very well together. We’re able to effectively pull our thoughts together quickly around a variety of topics, and to express our ideas clearly, and well.”
It also helped, Coco notes, that the second resolution the pair debated sat squarely in Morgan’s wheelhouse.
“Morgan is a very knowledgeable and passionate EcoMon,” explains Coco. “The second resolution, which we drew randomly, related to the use of plastic straws. Morgan knew a lot of very, very specific information about different types of plastics and their impact on the environment. I was very impressed, and so were the other competitors and judges.”
The Impromptu Speaking rounds were new to the tournament this year. In the past, the event has featured only three rounds of parliamentary debate. Adding impromptu rounds, says organizers, was designed to “expose more students to a different aspect of public speaking.” It was also another opportunity for Morgan to shine: She took home the bronze in the Novice Impromtu Speaker category.
“The first prompt was about Saturdays,” explains Morgan. “I expanded that to speak more to the idea of giving yourself time to just relax and explore things you enjoy—about focusing on health and happiness rather than structuring your time around a linear idea of success.”
Despite feeling a bit nervous at the start, Morgan scored 89 points on a 70-95 scale for her opening prompt.
“I was feeling more confident by the second prompt,” Morgan says, “and that showed in my next score, which was a 92. The prompt was about home; I spoke of it as a fluid concept—one that is always in flux—and connected it to the theme of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown.”
Coco and Morgan are both looking forward to the next round of debates, which begin in January and include events at Loomis Chaffee, Choate, and Kingswood-Oxford. Advisers Brianne Foley and Khalid Tellis will continue to work with the team using practice resolutions to prepare for the upcoming events.
“Debate is really all about expressing yourself—about choosing the precise words and expressions to capture your thoughts and opinions,” says Coco. “It has also been a wonderful way for me, as a student from China, to learn about many new topics—things like the American justice system, elections, and the Supreme Court—in a really in-depth way.”