Teen Debaters Parse Candidates' Style And Substance | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Teen Debaters Parse Candidates' Style And Substance

Play associated audio

The high school debaters at the Bay Area Urban Debate League get together every week in downtown Oakland, Calif., to hone their arguments and debating styles. But the young debaters have had a chance during the recent presidential debates to see how it's done on the national stage.

They watch with pen and worksheet, taking notes and analyzing the candidates' debating styles, hoping to glean some lessons from the pros.

There is a lot for these young debaters to observe and compare, but they have also noticed some key differences.

The biggest difference between teen debaters and candidates is how one wins the debate. In high school policy debates, teens argue over current topics such as education and transportation, and a judge decides a clear winner at the end based on a formula of evidence, presentation and arguments made by each side.

In presidential debates, it's a lot harder to say who wins, says 17-year-old Sarafina Padilla.

"The judge tells you if you won or lost based on points," Padilla says. "In a presidential debate it's all critics saying their perspective and stuff. We just do the debate, we get a grade, and a prize then."

Another key difference is that debaters actually have to prove what they're saying in a youth policy debate, which is not necessarily true for the candidates.

Robin Bonner, who helps run the class, says she was disturbed by the lack of facts the candidates gave in previous debates. She says teen debaters have to meet a higher bar in their arguments than the guys sparring for the Oval Office.

"Ours actually has to have a plan, has to have solvency, impacts. ... What's going to happen to this population? What's going to happen to this budget?" Bonner says of her students. "It's more thought out in a real way."

The whole business of presidential debates is also more chaotic than what they're used to, says 17-year-old Elisa Saavedra.

"The way the presidential debates go is a lot messier than the way we do debates here," Saavedra says. "They do a lot more non-respectful yelling at each other. ... I guess that's the way they think they should do it, but it doesn't really look good to just overpower someone because when it comes down to it, it's not really who can yell loudest or who can talk more; it's about who can get the issues solved."

Of course, solving a national issue in a two-minute window is tough. Teen policy debaters get seven minutes to present their solutions.

The audio for this story was produced by Youth Radio.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

From 'Dragon Tattoo' To The 'Spider's Web': Stieg Larsson's Heroine Returns

The late Stieg Larsson's Millennium series of novels is getting an addition, The Girl in the Spider's Web. The book, written by David Lagercrantz, just got its title and a U.S. release date: Sept. 1.
NPR

Our Food-Safety System Is A Patchwork With Big Holes, Critics Say

More than a dozen federal agencies play a part in keeping food from making Americans sick. Critics say the system has gaps, and we'd all be safer if federal food safety efforts were under one roof.
WAMU 88.5

Hogan's Promise To Cut Maryland Taxes Curbed By Lawmakers

In his campaign last year, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pledged to cut taxes in the state, but so far only two minor measures have made it out of committee.

NPR

With 'Single-Stream' Recycling, Convenience Comes At A Cost

Many Americans now have access to a commingled recycling system, which lets users mix plastic, glass, paper and metal together in one bin. It's much easier, but not nearly as efficient.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.