Bishop’s Students Thrive at Congress Tournament

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PC: Matthew Valji

Members of the Speech and Debate team posed in front of their “base."

Bishop’s students placed in 6 out of 15 spots in the Novice Congress tournament last Saturday, September 28 at Bonita Vista High School. Congress, a Speech and Debate event in which students dress up in ill-fitting formal clothes and debate questionable and controversial bills related to real-world issues, is one that Bishop’s specializes in. 

Right before the start of the tournament, participants are sorted into houses, which are essentially groups of students. Until the finals, students remain in their house, meaning that they debate with the same people again and again. Additionally, the judges for the rounds are volunteer parents. Consequently, students often know more about the topic being discussed than the judges. Furthermore, judges are frequently biased, and according to Mr. Matthew Valji, head coach of the Speech and Debate Team, “the results can be very unpredictable. Sometimes they decide based on skill or persuasion, but other times they may decide based on your hair or your suit.”

In this tournament, students discussed four bills total. The first round, which featured a bill written by Bishop’s, discussed the right to repair, which is the right of consumers to be able to repair their own things. The second round debated a ban on the sale of tear gas by the US to other countries, and the third and last preliminary round discussed a poorly-written and grammatically incorrect resolution to shift oil pipeline funds to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The final round debated a bill to eliminate public charge, which is a system used by US immigration services to prevent prospective and current immigrants from becoming dependent on the government.

PC: Audrey An (’23)
Freshmen finalists took a selfie in celebration at Bonita Vista High School.

Many participants from Bishop’s had mixed feelings about the tournament. Will Kessler (‘23) struggled in Rounds One and Three due to an imbalance in the house, which meant that he had to switch sides of the debate. As a result, he felt that “it was mentally taxing to waste a speech that you worked on for so long, but there was also an advantage because I knew the weakness of my original points.“ Others expressed concerns with senators from other schools. A student that was in the same house as a particularly rude senator from Carlsbad High School, Juni Raisinghani (‘23), stated that “he [the senator] dissed everyone in a second speech which was completely uncalled for and unnecessary.” Audrey An (‘23) also had a similar problem in a different house. 

Overall, students enjoyed the tournament and gained many valuable experiences. Will Keefe (‘23), who placed first, said, “I thought it was a really rewarding experience because I got to meet so many people. I grew as a debater and learned new things about Congress and debate.”

Besides Will, other novices that placed were Kasie Leung (‘23) (second), Audrey An (‘23) (fourth), Claire Nelson (‘20) (sixth), Niamh Malhotra (‘23) (seventh), and Annalise Chang (‘23) (twelfth). 

Returning varsity members that placed were Timmy Kelly (‘20) (fourth), Andrew Bender (‘20) (fifth), Quinn Rodriguez (‘20) (sixth), Maya Ebel (‘21) (eighth), Kyle Berlage (‘22) (ninth), Whitney Hejmanowski (‘21) (eleventh), Schuyler Capita (‘21) (twelfth), and Austin Yang (‘21) (fifteenth).