By Forest Lassman
Students learn to think critically about issues
Each year, the college’s debate team is given a topic, and throughout the year, learn the topic completely, hearing and arguing it in almost every way imaginable.
Justin Stanley, coach of the team, loves the different viewpoints this process causes.
“I think it teaches people to think on their feet and think critically about issues that they will confront. To be able to communicate ideas they have about a particular issue whenever they are in a discussion about it,” Stanley said. “Being able to listen to other people’s ideas and evaluate them just helps people be better thinkers about the issues that are facing our society.”
This year, the team debates over the legalization of marijuana, online gambling, physician-assisted suicide, prostitution, and whether the sale of human organs should be legalized.
The college is well known throughout the country as one of the best places to debate. Stanley attributes these successes to a good base.
“We have talented students. We’re tremendously well supported by the administration and faculty here at Johnson County, so that has a lot to do with it. If you get administrative support and you have talented students, then you can be very successful. We’re lucky in the sense that the midwest is a hotbed of debate at the high school level and the college level. Kansas high school debate is really good, and Missouri high school debate it quite good as well. There’s a lot of high school talent to recruit from within the area,” Stanley said.
Stanley would know, as he got his start with debate growing up in Blue Springs. After coaching at Illinois State, Stanley came back six years ago, and became the head coach four years ago.
Coaching at a two-year school can offer some challenges.
“The students move on and transfer to four year institutions so quickly. There’s a very quick turnover. You generally only get students out of high school for two years, and then they go on somewhere else,” Stanley said. “You don’t get to keep the same students for four or five years.”
Students that move onto new schools do excellent in debate. In one tournament this year, the college ended up losing in the finals to a former member of the team.
Even with these high expectations, Stanley doesn’t feel pressure to be the best.
“I don’t think about the pressure of being successful in terms of winning, but more about making sure we get students who are academically successful who have opportunities to transfer and get scholarships,” Stanley said.
The team has 16 members currently, and around a third have never taken debate before.
“You don’t have to be a successful high school debater or have tremendous high school experience to be on the team, because there’s a novice division, a junior-varsity division, and an open division. You can compete against people at your same experience level,” Stanley said.
Contact Forest Lassman, copy editor, firstname.lastname@example.org