Alta High School last week welcomed talkative visitors for the 30th annual Black and Silver Debate Tournament.
Eighty schools from 14 states were represented at the Tournament of Champions-qualifying event, with 500 students who came from as far away as Florida to compete.
From Thursday to Saturday, some 200 adult chaperones and judges accompanied the students, who debated various topics in public forum, policy debate, and Lincoln-Douglas debate. “It’s very busy, logistically speaking,” said Alta debate coach Tanya Roundy. “It really pulls us together as a team, because they spend a lot of time working to get things to come together and managing the tournament together.”
Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa first established the debate tournament 30 years ago to provide his students an opportunity to compete at a high-level tournament without having to travel. Debaters who make it to the finals at the Black and Silver tourney qualify to go on to compete in the national Tournament of Champions.
In later years, host schools were no longer allowed to compete in their own tournaments, to avoid the appearance of bias. However, the Black and Silver competition is still a great opportunity for Alta’s debate students to use their skills, Roundy says.
“They use a lot of their speech skills, meeting new people, talking about these topics, hearing perspectives and arguments from all over the United States,” Roundy said. “They also get the benefit of learning how to manage time and organize and event plan.”
This year, Alta’s debate team had a bumper crop of 30 novice members and six varsity members. The team has students on the wrestling team, swim team, basketball players, actors, and all academic levels, Roundy says. She attributes the growing interest in Alta’s debate team as a carryover from the debate programs initiated in the District’s middle and elementary schools.
“It can really bring a lot of students with different interests together,” Roundy said. “Debate allows them to explore whatever their strengths are and build on those.”