The case with Debate


Camryn Corbin

The Debate Team: starting from furthest left, Rhani Stewart (11), Sheena Abdar-Rasheed (10),Curt Rakestraw, Dominique Malone (12), Victoria Robinson (11), John Mckissack (12), Ananya Dirghang (12), Becca Folkes-Lallo (10), Isaiah Oden (10)

A month before school started, students on the White Station debate team found out the program would be suspended for the 2015–2016 school year.

Debate is a program where students form pairs and prepare a negative and affirmative speech for a case given to them at the beginning of each season. The case, that season’s topic, and information supporting both the negative and positive sides of the issue.

The debates consist of four rounds, each round lasts about sixty minutes. Within these sixty minutes, the students give their first speech, known as the constructive, where they present reasons as to why their side is the correct solution.  The opposing team then addresses flaws in the first team’s argument through cross examination. Both teams refute the other’s argument in the rebuttal, then the closing speech is given and the winner announced.

This lengthy process is guided and taught by Debate coach Curt Rakestraw. Rakestraw has been a part of the debate program since its origin in 2008, working with East High School for six years, and transitioning to White Station last year.

“It [debate] helps people. It gives you the opportunity to really improve skills you might not have been so confident about, like your public speaking skills and your ability to be assertive and make your point very clear. Also, I think it’s very beneficial for people to have that experience.” said Porter Clement (10) said.

Rakestraw teaches students ways to comprehend complex topics. He specifically helps the Junior Varsity team with problem solving and the Varsity team with strategy. Additionally, students develop research and comprehension skills, as well as public speaking and confidence.

“This [debate program] was started in 2008, by a group of independent people who were surprised that debate wasn’t in the schools already. They wanted to start it independently of the schools so that they could have a little bit more control over it.” said Rakestraw.

This group of people became a Board of Directors in charge of all things debate. Most of the money provided to the program was fund-raised or donated by private groups, in addition to some money received from Shelby County School Board. Over the summer, the Board of Directors decided to disband the debate program in SCS based on financial issues, which led to some of the coaches involved with the program to join together to see if the Shelby County School Board would help with funding to make debate possible for this year.

Fortunately for the avid debaters, this effort was a success. After several meetings with the board and other schools’ coaches, debate is officially back at all schools for the 2015-2016 school year, with complete funding; however the school board is only funding the program for this school year only. So the case with debate is not yet closed.