John Tyler High School debate students excel in recent competitions, critique presidential debate

October 3, 2016




John Tyler High School debate students continue to, what has become a tradition, excel in various debate competitions.


Speech, debate and theatre students competed recently in the Texas Forensic League Invitation Tournament held in Lindale. Students competed against more than 30 schools in Prose Interpretation, Poetry Interpretation, Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking, Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking, Congressional Debate and Public Forum Debate. John Tyler made an impressive showing with 10 students advancing through various rounds with the Public Forum Debate Team of Triston Ferguson and Ta'Corian Tilley placing 5th overall. Additionally, Triston received the coveted top speaker award for Public Forum Debate. The debate team participates around the state in tournaments thoughtout the year, averaging two tournaments a month. 


In the recent Sons of the American Revolution Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest, students were required to write and memorize a speech that took an event, person, or document from the American Revolution and compared it to something in today's society. Triston’s speech on Patriot James Armistead and his contribution to America's Independence from Britain earned him a second place finish, a scholarship and the opportunity to advance to compete in the SAR state oration contest in Austin in October. State winners will then compete at the National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.


"It is amazing to see how history comes to life as these students work on these speeches, the students are able to apply historical events to our world today,” April Caldwell, John Tyler debate coach, said. “We are so grateful that the SAR sponsors this contest and supports our students’ continued learning about the founding of America."


With the presidential debate season now upon us, we asked John Tyler debate students to analyze the performances of both candidates during the first debate using the skills they have learned and applied so far. Here are their responses:


Triston Ferguson: As I watched the debate, the one thing I thought of the most was probably that both candidates where doing things that Ms. Caldwell taught us never to do, such as attacking the person and not the issue, avoiding the question, allowing your emotions to dictate your responses, interrupting people, and of course, not making faces at your opponent. I also did notice a couple of things individually about both candidates that stood out. Secretary Clinton did a fabulous job preparing for the debate, and even though there were a few times when emotions came in, she seemed to be ready for what Mr. Trump was going to be saying to her. Mr Trump did better, I believe, than he has done in previous debates in controlling his emotions, but the interruptions to both Sec. Clinton and the moderator showed weakness.  The one thing I think he did was he had analyzed his audience well and knew that a lot of people are tired of the government. He kept saying "she's been there forever and nothing's changed," as a way to emphasize that she was part of the present problem. This repetition and audience analysis is very important in a debate, so he did well with that. 


Ta'Corian Tilley:  I just watched it and thought if we acted like this we would never win a round in debate. For Clinton, while she was continually saying fact check on Trump there were things that she said that were later found to also not be true. The one thing that people are afraid of with her is that she is dishonest. I also might not bring up the fact that she has stamina based on her time in the congressional hearing. She should stay away from bringing up the email scandal. For Trump, he has got to control his emotions. Also, I would recommend he actually prepare. You should never go into a debate or any speech without proper preparation. I would also tell him that in the times he is trying to remain calm he has a habit of "sniffing," when he got worked up the sniff went away. 


PICTURED: (Left to right) Ta'Corian Tilley and Triston Ferguson

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