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No debate: East Ridge students bound for nationals

East Ridge High School senior Noah Eckberg and classmate Kevin Bi, a sophomore, have advanced to the National Speech & Debate Association’s national tournament for Congressional Debate, which will take place in June 2015 in Dallas. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

East Ridge High School students Noah Eckberg and Kevin Bi have a habit of arguing with others.

Bi, a sophomore, and Eckberg, a senior, have advanced to the National Speech & Debate Association’s national tournament for Congressional Debate, which will take place this June in Dallas.

“I think both of us were fairly surprised,” Bi said. “We’ve seen a lot of videos of the national tournament and heard about it as some mythological place that we can’t go to, but now it’s kind of weird knowing that we’re going.”

The qualifying match for the national tournament was held Nov. 12 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Bi and Eckberg are the first two students from East Ridge to qualify for the national debate tournament. East Ridge launched its debate team last year.

Eckberg and Bi said that being involved with debate has helped them in other areas including writing, public speaking and generally just seeing the big picture.

East Ridge will be competing in another national qualifying tournament – for Public Forum Debate and Lincoln-Douglas Debate – on Dec. 13 at St. Paul Academy.

Debating in Congress

Congressional Debate, just one of the three categories of debate, has students participate in a mock Congress – House of Representatives or Senate – where they debate various bills.

Prior to the tournament, Bi and Eckberg were given a list of 23 bills to research.

Additionally, they had to develop arguments for both sides of the issue.

“I love looking at things from two different sides,” Eckberg said.

The bills debated during the qualifying match related to ISIS, e-cigarettes, Ebola and nuclear energy.

“I traditionally have very liberal views on things, but in Congress if you want to be able to speak on certain issues, you have to be able to switch sides very quickly,” Bi said. “It’s cool seeing an opposite perspective and being able to argue very powerfully for one side that you completely disagree with.”

Eckberg and Bi said neither of them felt too confident going into the qualifying match.

“Never did it really occur to me that it was a possibility until it happened,” Eckberg said.

Participants are judged on: originality of thought and how it advances the debate rather than repeats previously stated ideas while refuting the opposing arguments; organization and unity and how cohesively ideas are linked; evidence and logic; delivery; and questioning.

Both Bi and Eckberg said judges commended them on their ability to move a debate forward.

“The speeches brought up new ideas rather than reiterating the same ideas,” Eckberg said.

Eckberg and Bi have not received the bills yet for the national tournament, but once they do they both said they intend to research in order to be as prepared as possible.

East Ridge Debate Team coach Katie Scholz said she is proud of Bi’s and Eckberg’s success.

“They are fantastic at thinking on their feet,” she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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