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10/4/2017
DDF to compete in Juneau

By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan High School Drama, Debate and Forensics team will be traveling to Juneau next week, where their first meet of the season will take place on Oct. 13-14 at Thunder Mountain High School.

The first meet will consist of training and workshops, and the students will be introduced to a new format of debate: the world’s debate format.

DDF coach Dave Mitchel said Steve Johnson, the debate coach from the University of Alaska Anchorage, will be teaching students about the format, which differs from the public forum debate model the school’s in Southeast Alaska currently use.

“He’s going to give us a trial debate and see how we like it, and see if we want to switch to that in the future,” Mitchel said.

The public forum debate has two teams that debate mostly well-known, controversial topics that change monthly, where the world format consists of a combination of prepared and impromptu topics, among other differences between the two.

The topic for the trial debate at the competition is “Deployment of anti-missile systems in South Korea’s best interest,” and Mitchel said the students don’t have to have their speeches memorized, since it’s a training event.

“It’s an international topic, and it’s a timely one, and that’s part of why students like debate and why I think it’s valuable,” he added.

This year, the team is split between new and old members, with a total of 25 students in the class. Mitchel said students will be paired together at the event, so an experienced DDF member is able to help someone new to the program.

“Those kids are on-task and they’re self-motivated so it’s great to coach them because they’re driven and I push them, but they push me just as much,” Mitchel said. “They’re competitive, and I have a really strong group of seniors I’m excited about and they set the tone for the whole class as well.”

A few of those seniors include Piper Cooper, Frances Barry and Thomas Brooks. Cooper, who has been in DDF for four years now, said the class has given her analytical skills that have prepared her for college.  

“I certainly think it builds a lot of character,” Cooper said. “You learn, not only public speaking, which is a huge part of it, but you learn how to develop a research paper, how to write a proper essay, and how to form a logical argument. A lot of things and a lot of skills that you need for college, if you’re going to be pursuing any sort of degree.”

Brooks has been involved with DDF for three years, and said he’s enjoyed watching his growth throughout the years, as well as the evolution of his classmates’ skills.

“Debate is so much more than just going to a meet and speaking,” he added. “These are skills you can use for the rest of your life.”

Barry, who’s been in DDF for four years, agreed with Brooks: Watching their team members grow has been a great experience.

“After my first meet, I didn’t feel like I was very good at it and I wanted to quit,” Barry added. “Seeing that perseverance in people is a great, great thing.”

The DDF team will compete in Skagway in November, Sitka in December and their home meet will be in Ketchikan in January, before they head to the state competition in February.

Mitchel said the students won most of the debate meets last year, and he’s looking forward to returning students making a big jump this year. He said they’ve figured out the mechanics of the competition and have a lot of potential, as do his freshman students.