Big debate

HARLINGEN – They spent more than an hour defending their position against repeated attacks, but in the end Grant Burbach and Jayson Alvarado made their point.

The first point, it must be remembered, wasn’t about whether the United States should curtail certain aspects of its domestic surveillance. The purpose was for Grant, 16, and Jayson, 17, to demonstrate their prowess on either side of the issue.

The two students from the Harlingen High School Speech/Drama/Debate Team won the 32-6A District Cross Examination Debate competition Friday in San Benito. Their sponsor and coach, Tasha Kneis, was delighted by their success.

“It is an honor to prepare and coach these outstanding young adults for such a rigorous competition,” she said. “They both remained focused and dedicated to excelling and it paid off.”

The UIL debate topic for the 2015 -2016 school year is “The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance.” From there, each team focused on a specific item related to the topic.

Grant, a sophomore, said he and Jayson wanted an aspect of this topic which differed from the others. They chose to debate the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which gives the Securities and Exchange Commission the power to survey U.S. companies.

“A lot of people don’t know about Sarbanes-Oxley,” Grant said. With so little information available about the law, he and Jayson had to dig around for it. They found what they needed, in the Yale Law Review and a few other sources. And they had to quote those sources while defending their positions.

Grant and Jayson argued for and against repealing the law. Grant said repeal of the law would give states more control over corporations.

Jayson, a senior, spoke in the “affirmative” for curtailing certain aspects of U.S. Government surveillance. Of course, there were plenty of students to dispute every point he made. Obviously, he was ready.

“Our opponents stood up and argued against our case for eight minutes,” Jayson said. “Then I’d go up and give my speech in response to what they just said.”

He and Grant took turns arguing either side of the issue and then answering questions from their opponents.

“It was very intense,” Jayson said. “I like winning. Our hard work paid off. It took us some time.”

They spent the past two or three months preparing for the event.

“It was a lot of research, a lot of reading,” Grant said. “We spent a lot of hours on that.”

They also spent long hours practicing their debating skills.

Kneis admired the work Grant and Jayson had put into preparing for the meet.

“I am very proud of them that they were able to compete for 1-1/2 hours about in-depth information,” she said. “They performed very well.”

This is the second year in a row that HHS has won this title, which is also a source of great pride for her and the other students. This win will take them to the UIL State Meet for Cross Examination Debate in March. That event will be held at the University of Texas – Austin.

The tournament last week is over, but the competition continues as Grant and Jayson prepare for the meet in March.

“We’ll keep practicing,” Grant said. “We’ll keep getting better and keep working on the case.”