About 50 students attended the debate tournament at LOJHS

by: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - The Lake Oswego Junior High Debate Club has about two dozen active members. Pictured are, from left, back row: Parent volunteer Ann Lininger, Andrew Samuelson, Joshua Yoon, Andrew Johnson, Lance Pancoast, Noah Slobodin, James Liu, Trevor Li (directly in front of James Liu), Michael Murray, Nathan Thornberg and Alex Sol; middle row: Grace Cook, Tiffani Thomason, Rachel Michtom, Hannah Bland, Cian Savoy and teacher Aletia Cochran; front row: Amy Park, Dan Michtom, Amy Wang, Doris Yang, Julia Lininger-White and Christopher Sun.Reasoning skills, whether in the form of an essay or a hypothesis, lie at the heart of academia.

Developing debate skills is one way to improve an understanding of reasoning.

So, by that reasoning, joining the debate team might be one route to academic success.

Debate can help students with their schoolwork because they become “more flexible and fluent in their thinking,” and it teaches students how to research and present evidence to back up an argument, “a fundamental building block for success,” said Aletia Cochran, adviser to the Lake Oswego Junior High School Debate Club. Shy students gain public-speaking skills such as holding eye contact and speaking loudly enough to be heard, and cooperating on a team hones students’ teamwork skills, Cochran said.

Aware of the potential gains and inspired by her brother’s team in Eugene, Ann Lininger sought to provide such an opportunity for her children, joining Cochran to found the LOJHS Debate Club a year ago. With about 24 active members, interest is strong, and Cochran and Lininger are building on that success, holding a tournament Jan. 18 at the school, which they hope to make an annual event.

“It’s just getting started,” said Lininger, the new state representative for House District 38 and the general counsel for Oregon Ironworks.

The event attracted about 50 middle schoolers with LOJHS teams facing off against Eugene and Tillamook teams. Students sought to prove or disprove that “ecotourism does more harm than good” and that “the U.S. should adopt a single-payer health care system.” Students had to study hard to understand the latter topic, said Cochran, also an eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher. Some students from Portland-area schools attended to check out the event to see about starting clubs at their own schools.

Lininger said standing before a crowd has its advantages.

“’Courage is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger it gets,’” said Lininger, quoting actress and writer Ruth Gordon. Lininger added: “There’s value in trying something worthwhile even if it’s scary and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

Besting the opposing team in all three debates was not the most important aspect of the event, said Anushka Nair, an LOJHS seventh-grader.

“I learned that winning doesn’t matter as long as you learn something,” Anushka said.

Eighth-grader Rachel Michtom said she enjoyed discussing the topics with friends and constructing rebuttals.

“I love debating because I like proving people wrong,” Rachel said.

LOJHS students offered up a few tips and trade secrets for debaters.

Anushka said preparedness is key, as is making yourself believe your point of view in the debate even if you don’t feel that way in general.

“You need to practice and have good speaking skills,” offered Doris Yang, a sixth-grader.

Doris also suggested snowing the judges with some fast talk and trying to seem as if you’ve got more points than you do.

Eighth-grader Hannah Bland noted that clockwatching is crucial.

“You have to know how much time you have, because (otherwise) you will go up there, and you will not know how much time you have, and you will have to talk really fast,” Hannah said.

LOJHS seventh-grader Trevor Li said he doesn’t think there are secrets to debating: “There are just tactics and practices.”

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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