GW students prepare for debate tournament

Freshman Heather Barnes and sophomore Jon Schwartz have been studying a lot in the library lately – but not for their midterms.

Barnes and Schwartz, members of GW’s policy debate team, are researching countries such as Syria and Iran to prepare for the National Debate Tournament in Kansas City, Mo., next Thursday.

The tournament is a goal Barnes and Schwartz have been working toward since the debate season began in August. The team competed in several tournaments this year, and their high rankings earned them a spot in this year’s national competition, Barnes said.

I’m really excited, Barnes said. Out of the hundreds of debate teams in the country, only 70 were chosen, and we’re one of them.

Barnes and Schwartz will debate economic sanctions in Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Cuba at next week’s event. This topic was assigned by the National Debate Tournament at the start of the season. Teams debate this one topic all year, but every competition promises to shed new light on the subject, Schwartz said.

Often times when you get to a high level of competition, everyone’s evidence is about the same quality, and this is when persuasion and creativity come into play, Schwartz said.

This year’s competition is at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Barnes and Schwartz will compete all week, beginning with eight preliminary rounds. The best teams will then be divided into brackets similar to the NCAA Tournament, Schwartz said.

It’s our own version of March Madness, he said.

Competition is not new to Schwartz and Barnes, who have been debating since they went to high school together in Virginia Beach, Va.

They have learned to adapt to different arguments and to intensively research a topic, something that can be both tedious and helpful, Barnes said.

If it wasn’t for the competition, I wouldn’t do it, Barnes said. The education is just a side benefit.

Nobody loves the research part, Schwartz said. It’s like practice, you’ve got to do it if you want to get better.

Schwartz and Barnes are younger than many of their competitors. Most of the opponents they will face next week will be juniors and seniors, Barnes said.

The young team also has met people from around the country through debate, an experience that they said is important to them.

I’ve met almost all of my good friends through debate, Barnes said. Schwartz has met friends from Washington state, California, Maine and the Midwest through debate and said it is his second favorite aspect of competing.

The best part is when the judge votes for you, Schwartz said. I love to win.

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