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All talk, all the time

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Linfield forensics team debates impact of U.S. pop culture

Two Chinese students participated with the Linfield College Forensics Team in a debate on the impact of U.S. pop culture April 10.

Zhou Zixi and Bihan Zhang of Xi’an International Studies University, along with their sponsor, Yang Ge, also attended several classes in the Modern Languages, Communication Arts, Political Science and Business departments.

The event, which was held in the Pioneer Reading Room, followed the British Parliamentary Debate format. Jackson Miller, associate professor of communication arts, who coaches the forensics team, mentioned in his opening remarks that Linfield’s team has almost exclusively shifted to this style of debate because of its unique, collaborative aspect.

Other formats involve only two teams, whereas in British Parliamentary Debate, there are four, two arguing for and two arguing against the proposition.

Although the allied teams are not allowed to prepare together, they must cooperate and build on each other’s arguments. Thus, in order to successfully defeat the opposition, teamwork is required.

Although it was just an exhibition match, the debate was a lively contest. Those arguing in favor of U.S. pop culture
highlighted the impact it has played in enacting positive change to conservative systems, such as education. They also emphasized the convenience that American technological innovations have provided.

The opposition argued that the hegemonic influence of the U.S. is detrimental to cultural diversity and decried the materialism that the U.S. is globally spreading.

The debate’s focus on pop culture gave a unique and fresh feel to the discussion on globalization. From Michael Jackson, to ESPN’s Gluttonbowl, to the iPad, no topic seemed off limits.

This is the third consecutive year in which Linfield’s forensics team has hosted students from China. The connections that have recently been made between Chinese institutions and Northwest colleges have led to the formation of the China Debate Association, of which Linfield is a member.

McMinnville is only one stop on a tour of the Northwest for Zixi and Zhang, who will also debate at the Oregon State Penitentiary, Willamette University, the University of Puget Sound and Northwest University.

Nick Hanh/
Copy editor

Forensics team speaks out about experiences

She didn’t think she was capable of competing with an award-winning forensics team when she began college, sophomore Clara Martinez said.

But Martinez has been part of Linfield’s forensics team since the beginning of her freshman year. The team recently participated in the Steven Hunt Classic tournament at Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 6 and 7, which featured several Linfield finalists.

Sophomore Stephanie Stovall was a finalist in the impromptu persuasion category, while Martinez was a finalist in the analysis communication section.

Before that, at the United States Air Force Academy Forensics Classic on Oct. 1, junior Chris Forrer received a first place in Open Program of Oral Interpretation and second place in Open After-Dinner Speaking. Martinez placed third in Open Communication Analysis.

Jackson Miller, associate professor of communication arts, coaches the team.

Each tournament features individual events, such as  extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking and performing literature.

There are also British parliament debates, which feature debates on controversial issues and current events.

“We have debate topics related to current events,” Martinez said.  “Not all of the topics are about current events, though. Some are aimed more toward engaging students in philosophical debates.”

The team prepares for meets at weekly practices, where members catch up on news, write debate briefs and practice speeches, said junior Linh Tang, who has participated in forensics since her freshman year.

“You have to be well-versed in current events if you want to be able to compete and do well,” Martinez said.

Being on the forensics team is time consuming and requires intense dedication, Martinez said. But the experience connects her to students at Linfield and from different institutions who are equally passionate about debate and the art of communication, she said.

“I meet so many different students from colleges because you spend so much time in tournaments,” she said. “We all share this love for competing and public speaking.”

Tang said the team has impacted her life in a variety of positive ways,  from sharpening her public speaking skills to improving the way she balances school and extracurricular activities.

“I would highly encourage students from all major and experience in public speaking skills to join Linfield Forensics Team,” Tang said.  “You will get the kind of experience you have never had before. It will change your college life in a way you would never expect.”

Martinez said that at age 16, she never would have dreamed of being so engaged in public speaking.

“I didn’t know what to expect from college,” Martinez said. “Neither of my parents went to college and I couldn’t picture what type of experience it would be for me.”

Martinez discovered the Linfield’s forensics team at the activities fair during her first few weeks on campus. And even though she said she thought of herself as a shy student, she went to the first meeting and joined the team.

“I remember that the day before my first tournament,  I was still hesitant to attend the tournament,” she said. “But  [Miller] told me that the draft of my speech was ‘speechy,’   so I told myself I could do it.  Now, after seeing how terrifying public speaking can be at first, I feel like I can do just about anything related to public speaking.”

Tang said she attributes much of her positive experience to Miller and his wife, Kathleen Spring, for their dedication to the art of public speaking and to their investment in the group.

“[Miller and Spring] have really been there for us, helped us to get great experience, “ Tang said. “They have become our forensics mom & dad.”

Joanna Peterson/
Managing editor
Joanna Peterson can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com.