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Improving Their Argument

Fall 2013 | By John Carter. Photo by sylverart2013/Shutterstock.com and Patty O’Friel..

Desmond Tutu famously said, “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.”

Members of the C. Richard Petticrew Debate Forum are working on perfecting that advice. With back-to-back state championships to its credit, the team is passionate about competing—and winning.

Pamela Deutsch, the Brian Lamb School of Communication faculty advisor, explains that the direction the team takes depends on them. John Schultz—the team’s coach and a graduate student himself in political science—tailors the practices to coincide with the team’s interests and chooses tournaments to focus in the areas the students want to address.

The team hosted its own debate tournament last spring using Worlds Style debate. This popular style uses four teams—two teams on both the proposition and opposition side—with two students on each team. After the round, each team is ranked first through fourth to determine the outcome. Worlds Style debate requires agility, as the opposing teams can interrupt a speaker with a “point of information” that requires an immediate response. The tournament that Purdue sponsored, with twenty-four teams from seven different schools—including colleges as far away as Clemson and Louisiana Tech—was the largest Worlds Style tournament to occur in the Midwest to date.

C. Richard Petticrew (BS 1937, Chemical Engineering) created the endowment that supports the debate team in 1990. When he was at Purdue, he and his debate partner, R. F. Royster, recorded 56 consecutive victories over a three-year period—a legacy that inspires the current team to excel.

The students will continue to improve their arguments and hope to extend their winning streak as they look forward to another successful year. As Schultz emphasizes, “Purdue’s been really small—but really good—for a really long time.”

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