The Debate Club is Offering a Unique Experience for Students

The Debate Club, created by students and led by Mr. Adam Gardner, is one of the most popular clubs in EHHS. The Debate Club works on students’ abilities to debate on various topics in a respectful manner.

The club started as a student idea about two years ago. The student responsible for the idea of the club was senior, and now president of the club, Ali Szewc. She actually came up with the idea in her sophomore year nearly two years ago, “I was arguing with one of my friends about Trump and Hillary and he said, ‘We should really do this in a club.’. I agreed and got to work,” said Ali. However, one thing all clubs need at EHHS is a faculty advisor. Consequently, Ali went to Mr. Gardner and asked him to take on the role, which he agreed to do. Even though she had never had him as a teacher, she still felt that he would be a great fit. “He’s a great teacher and honestly I believed he wouldn’t be biased and take sides” she said. She also added that he is a good mediator who keeps tempers down when debates get heated. On why he took the role, Gardner said, “I see there is a lot of interest, but not quite a lot of understanding of what it means to debate and create a sound argument and present it a manner that is efficient.” This can be seen as the goal for the club, to “hone in on those argumentative skills and using them in a practical manner,” said Gardner. He hopes that the skills that the students learn in the club can be applied to their everyday lives instead of aimlessly arguing. Being able to debate a topic peacefully and without anger is always better than yelling or getting in another’s face. This is Gardner’s main focus with the group, as well as developing other argumentative skills.

The Debate Club is amongst the most popular clubs at EHHS, with roughly 20 members. The group is well mixed with members of every class, including freshmen and returning members. However, the upperclassmen of the group take on bigger roles. “There’s no defined roles, but there are older students [juniors and seniors] who’ve taken an act of lead,” Mr. Gardner said. This is no surprise, as these upperclassmen are the same people who founded the club about a year ago. One of these upperclassmen is senior, founder and self-proclaimed president of the club, Ali. “The responsibility now really is getting people to meetings and also attracting attention to the club,” said Ali. She wants to see growth of the club amongst EHHS students. She feels many students can benefit from the skills learned in this club, both in their present lives and in the future. Another responsibility Ali took on was recruiting people into the club. After the club became official, Ali said that she had made flyers and posted them around EHHS advertising the club. She also said she told everyone she could about the club, attempting to build the club membership. She has even gotten the club on the announcements a couple of times. However, she has taken some time off from the club due to her time with the soccer team. “It has been a little hard early this year since I’m playing soccer, but I’m trying to manage.” It is safe to say that she has her hands full, but the president of the club has not lost any of her passion for the club, her academics, or the soccer team, which has recently qualified for states. All of this has made her into a more responsible person, which will benefit her for years to come after high school.

Among these upperclassmen is senior Freddy Mascola. Mascola mentioned, “I joined debate club because I enjoy arguing and discussing topics that I feel strongly about.” Along with him is senior Matthew Lisko, who also joined about a year ago when the club was founded. On why he joined, he said, “I always like voicing my opinion about things and I felt it was a good opportunity for me.” And indeed a good opportunity it was for Matt and his peers. So much, in fact, that more and more people come every meeting. These meetings are where the actual debating occurs. According to Matt, these meetings are always fun and eventful. He continued, “I cannot think of one particular experience; it’s always a fun time.” Having an experience like this is unique for students like Matt, and it is clear that he enjoys the time in the meetings. Freddy also feels the same way as Matt in this aspect. On his experiences in the club meetings, he said that he enjoys coming together with his club members to hear everyone's opinions on the topics discussed. “It is nice to know how other people feel about certain topics and why some opinions differ from mine,” said Freddy. According to Ali, her favorite experience was a specific debate about the death penalty the club had last year. “It was just a free for all debate and honestly things got a little heated, but it was fun,” said Szewc. “It’s great seeing people having fun and expressing their opinion in something you’ve done,” she added.

The topics discussed in the club are what people would expect from a modern day debate club. However, Mr. Gardner is pretty open to any topic. “It’s a lot of student suggestions,” he said. Allowing the student suggestions into the club allows students to argue what they want to, instead of being told what to argue. This also incentivises students to pay attention to the world around them, so they can bring in their own opinions. According to Freddy, some topics have already been discussed in the club. When talking about the topics that are common in the club, he said, “As for now, we have established our feelings on certain topics such as abortion, marijuana, and gun laws.” But as long as the club keeps running, new topics will keep on being discussed. Matt also mentioned that they discuss current events. As most people know, some of the news in today’s world is not the prettiest. However, even if it is controversial, it can still, and will, likely be discussed in the club. Mr. Gardner said the club does a good job not going too far. As he said before, the seniors try to keep everything in check. This is no different during the meetings. Seniors are often left in charge of running the meetings, which leaves it up to them to keep everyone in check. These meetings occur twice a month in Mr. Gardner’s room (W116), and is the foundation for most of the club’s activities.

As for the future of the club, Ali wants to see the club to continue to flourish after she graduates. When the year is over, she intends to meet with Mr. Gardner to choose a group to keep the group going. “It’s [the club] like my baby,” she said. “I want to see it grow and blossom and become a huge club in EHHS.”

For more information, you can visit Mr. Gardner in his room (W116) or email him: agardner@east-haven.k12.ct.us

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