Cushing High School's first UIL Congressional Debate Team Compete at Regionals
On November 9th, three students from Cushing HS’s first ever Congressional debate team competed in Hallsville at Regionals: Leighah Deckard, Kaylah Stelly, and Joshua Hancock.
Congress is a form of debate created to emulate the US National Congress. The students write bills or legislation and send them to the regional committee two months before competition, the committee (a group of teachers in East Texas) chooses 14 of the bills, and UIL publishes the official list. The bills are written over current events or real world issues: the DOD’s 1033 program, mental health services in prisons, forming a federal CPS, Puerto Rico’s Statehood, abolishing ICE, mail-in ballots for those with disabilities, etc.
After the list is published, the students begin researching each of the bills. They write speeches using articles and statistics that they have found either supporting or going against the bill. This is a lot of work for these students! They have to find time to do this between sports, their school work, and other extracurricular activities. Plus, they only have a couple of months to get all 14 speeches written and practiced.
On the day of competition, students are sworn into office just as our national representatives are, and use the same oath of office used by our own Congress. They then go into their first 3 hour session. The sessions mimic a true legislative session. The students Elect a Presiding Officer (or speaker of the House), nominate a docket (decide the order of the bills), and then they begin discussion of the bill by giving speeches on both sides. The Chamber is run using Robert’s Rules of Order. If you couldn’t tell by the description, this competition is pretty complicated and mentally taxing. If the students rank in the top of their chamber by exhibiting excellent speaking ability and being well informed, they advance to the Regional finals. This means another 3 hours of debating for those students.
Joshua Hancock advanced to the finals chamber, and competed for a total of 6 hours. We are very proud of our students who put in the work and went to compete for the first time in this event. It takes a lot of mental endurance and dexterity to do what they did. Go Bearkats!