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A Winning Argument
Nichole LeFebvre

 

In early February, our middle school debate teams wowed the judges at the 35th annual Stanford Invitational. Head-Royce sent two middle school teams to compete in Parliamentary Debate (“Parli”)––and won.

“This is the first time our middle school students competed in Parli and joined this predominantly high school tournament, one of the biggest international debate tournaments,” says Middle and Upper School Parli Coach Vy Linh Nguyen. Competition was fierce, as the Stanford Invitational “features 54 events and 3,782 students from 354 schools, representing 40 different states and several Asian and European countries.”

Parli is an extemporaneous form of competitive debate that, according to Stanford’s website “pits two two-person teams against each other in a contest of argument, wit, and rhetoric, which roughly simulates debate in a House of Parliament.” One team, the government,  proposes a case that the opposition team has to try and disprove. 

“Sounds simple, huh?” says Vy Linh. “The trick is that there is no in-round preparation time, and the opposition doesn’t know the exact case ahead of time, so you are forced to think fast on your feet and improvise a great deal of every speech.” This sort of debate helps students develop flexibility and confidence, while making logical connections and relying on their partner’s knowledge.  

Team Quattro R. ’25 and Alex J. ’26 won the Stanford Middle School Parli division, for their argument on why the US federal government should require social media companies to distinguish themselves as platforms or publishers. Lucia P. ’25 and Nina B. ’25 may have come in a close second, but unfortunately, the tournament does not allow intra-team competition, so were eliminated. The two didn’t go home empty-handed: Lucia P. ’25 and Nina B. ’25 won first and second top-speaker awards, respectively! 

Congratulations to our winning middle school debate teams! (And good luck to their parents who might want to gather supporting evidence for their next conversation about screen time…)

While these middle schoolers are just getting started, our exceptional seniors are about to finish their high school debate careers––as champions. Jasper R. ’21 and Dominique Q. ’21 placed second in the Varsity Parli division against 90 other teams at the Stanford Invitational, and were previously undefeated at the Golden Gate Speech Association (GGSA) tournament. Vikram R. ’21 and Lisa K. ’21––both student leaders of the middle school debate program––have qualified for The Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious high school debate tournament. They earned their three bids by winning the Alta Tournament, placing as semi-finalists at the Heritage Hall Tournament, and coming in second at the Stanford Invitational. Coached by Corey Turoff and Tommye Weddington, Vikram and Lisa compete in Varsity Policy Debate, in which teams of two advocate for or against actual United States laws. Vy Linh says, “Policy is the most demanding format, and it requires many hours of preparation for this year's topic on United States criminal justice reform.” We wish them all the best preparing for the April tournament!