Yeshivat Frisch junior varsity debaters Shaina Davis and Ilana Knoll won first place out of fifty teams in a North Jersey Debate League tournament on November 7 at Pascack Valley High School. The fifty teams at the debate hailed from six different schools, of which Frisch was the only yeshiva high school.
The resolution up for debate read: “The federal government should substantially raise funding and/or regulation in public primary and/or secondary education.” Within this broader topic, each team researched a narrower subtopic, on which to base an affirmative argument. Each team also argued against the resolution, finding ways to negate another team’s affirmative argument on the spot. “You have no idea what they’re going to talk about and you need to come up with a counter-argument knowing nothing about that particular topic,” said Davis. “It’s also challenging to debate about public school, which we’re not as familiar with.”
“It’s especially hard to debate against something you believe in,” added Knoll.
For their affirmative argument, Davis and Knoll concentrated on nutritional education, arguing that a licensed nutritionist should conduct school assemblies and educational programs several times per year. (“We’ve seen a lot of childhood illnesses that are nutrition-related,” explained Davis.) For their negative argument they needed to poke holes in another team’s argument favoring mandatory mental health awareness training for classroom educators.
While Knoll said she has always been interested in debate, Davis joined the team this year.
“I love thinking on my feet, and I’ve always enjoyed class discussions and sharing my opinion with other people,” explained Knoll.
Davis discovered how much she enjoyed debate when she was trying out for the team. “I wanted to be part of an academic team, and debate seemed interesting to me,” she said. “I enjoyed the process of trying out, including all the research, and realized this is something I really want to do. It gives you a platform to speak about your passion.”
Both sophomores, the winning match was Knoll’s third debate and Davis’s second.
Frisch history department member Dr. Ilan Fuchs serves as the debate team’s coach. “To win a debate there are two elements,” said Fuchs, noting that Davis and Knoll won their debate by a wide margin. “You need good logic, but you also need good form. In this case, our team had good logic and form, and they also found the difficulties in the logic and form of the other team.”
Davis and Knoll said they sharpened their argumentation skills by implementing Dr. Fuchs’s debating and public speaking tips—which Knoll described as “important skills that go far beyond debate”—as well as learning from previous mistakes, which helped them construct a more airtight argument this time around.
They were both thrilled to bring their plaque home to Frisch. Additionally, the two students each credited the other for her hard work, and noted how their individual strengths overlap and complement each other—Knoll pointed out Davis’ fantastic research skills, while Davis spoke of Knoll’s excellent speaking skills and quick thinking. “I’m just so lucky to have Shaina as my debate partner,” said Knoll. To which Davis immediately responded about Ilana, “Me too!”