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Student Debaters Learn Life Skills At Bard Tourney

Bard debate participants are, from left: Emily Shein, Doug Appenzeller, and Joe Becker, all from Red Hook High School in Dutchess County. Photo Credit: Bard College
Students wait for their turn in the debate tournament hosted recently by Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. Photo Credit: Bard College
Two unidentified Bard College students act as judges during the recent debate tournament that attracted more than 100 high school students and teachers. Photo Credit: Bard College

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Nearly 100 high school students and teachers took part in a recent debate tournament hosted by Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson.

According to the college, participants came from all over, including: Red Hook and Rhinebeck in Dutchess County, and Germantown in Columbia County as well as New York City, Newark, N.J.; and Cleveland.

Groups of three students from each school debated on topics ranging from climate change to refugee conflicts and whether voting should be mandatory in the United States.

“We actually release these topics to them a month in advance, but we don’t tell them what side they will be, so they have to prepare both sides of every topic,” said Ruth Zisman, assistant professor of social studies and faculty adviser of the Bard Debate Union.

Students were not given their sides of the debates until they arrived Friday.

“The debate that we do at Bard is British Parliamentary, but the debate that the students are doing today is called Worlds Schools,” said Adelina Colaku, Bard sophomore and civic engagement captain of the Bard Debate Union.

“The government team is for the motion, the opposition team is against the motion. Each speech is five minutes long and then you have one person who does a reply speech and that’s three minutes long,” Colaku said.

Doug Appenzeller, a Red Hook High School student who participated in the tournament, praised the educational aspects of learning how to debate.

“My ability to express my thoughts and my views will help me no matter what I go on to do,” he said.

Emily Shein, Appenzeller’s debate partner, said arguing a particular point of view helps her cultivate the kind of critical thinking skills that she can use in all areas of life.

“There are so many ideas and perspectives that I wouldn’t normally have looked at because of debate,” she said. “Developing a worldview and understanding opposition are really important things to do.”

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