Local debate team weighs in on presidential debates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who won the debate? Immediately after the presidential debates, opinions were flooding in from pundits and social media on how well the candidates handled themselves. Personal political leanings no doubt influence many of those opinions, but one local debate team is taking a step back from the ideologies and evaluating the candidates simply from a debate perspective.

There’s a lot more at stake with a presidential debate: a wider audience, candidates vying for votes that will affect our future. But the fundamentals of what makes a good debate are all the same.

“Focusing on the main issue draws in the voters, draws in the judges at a debate and that’s what wins you the round. That did not happen at the presidential debate,” said senior Gavin Zarr.

Gavin Zarr and Parker Young are on the Debate team at Park Hill High School. They’ve been watching the candidates closely, unimpressed with the performances they’ve seen.

“He was very condescending, I think, when he answered questions and when he referred to Hillary and what she’s done and what she will do,” said Young.

“She could have pressed a lot harder on attacks,” Zarr added.

They agreed the candidates lacked focus and organization. It’s exciting for Tyler Unsell to see his students watch the debates with a critical eye.

“Did they keep their cool? What issues were they talking about? Did one get under the skin of the other? It allows us to examine the theater of modern presidential debates,” said Unsell, the Debate & Forensics Director. “It could be Donald Trump said this thing about women or Hillary Clinton did this about her emails. Whatever the issues may be, we examine those sources, we look at that evidence, and from there we can pick a part whether the evidence is trustworthy, whether or not the evidence says what they think it says and it gives us these great teachable moments.”

Keep your cool and find evidence to back your claim, that’s what Unsell says is Debate 101.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Zarr and Young rated this presidential debate a 6 and 4, respectively, because they argue that the content just wasn’t there.

The final debate is in Las Vegas on October 19.