Abell Salutes: The Debating Society at City High School

February 1998 / Salutes / Education

Restoring and enriching the school’s 125-year-old debating tradition.

Fifteen-year old Erica Gambrill is in a classroom at Loyola High School and is articulating the case for legalizing marijuana. Eugene Fulton, 16, is in a classroom at Catholic High and is making the case for interracial adoption. Elenia Quaffai is in Pikesville Senior High, defending the death penalty.

These young men and women are standing on their feet in front of their peers and several adult judges, engaged in the highly sophisticated and classic art of arguing. As each presents, he or she is displaying, amply and with facility, the scholarship, organizational skills, poise, confidence, and solid mastery of the techniques of persuasion. These are City High School students, debating. For a high-school debating team in only its second year of existence and against formidable competition, these young debaters, heirs to the City tradition of debate that goes back more than 100 years, are doing exceedingly well, and winning more than their share.

City students, with the support of a grant by The Abell Foundation, in the echoes of their predecessors in the Bancroft and Carrollton Wight literary societies, are once again debating the issues and declaiming such great speeches from history and literature as Othello’s apology and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

In the fall of 1996 the City debating team joined the Baltimore Catholic Forensic League and the National Forensic League. Fifteen students competed in speech and debate activities this first year. Debating activities were held once a month from October to March at various schools, all within Baltimore County. The type of debate is known as Student Congress. Several students also competed on Saturdays in speech activities.

At the end of 1996-1997 school year two students, Eugene Fulton and Robert Williams, qualified for the National Catholic Forensic League competition in Student Congress. Eugene made the final Student Congress competition and finished in the top 15 in the nation!

The 1997-1998 City team now consists of 21 members. Seven of them have already qualified for the state semifinals through their successes in the Student Congress. Eugene may become the first City student to qualify for the state finals in Student Congress and extemporaneous speaking.

The Abell Foundation salutes the City debating team coach, Don Koch, principal Joe Wilson, and each and every one of the young and aspiring debaters, for restoring and enriching the debate tradition at City.