Two TAS teams of debaters advanced yesterday to the second round of the International Public Policy Forum, a written and oral debate competition for high school students around the world. One team includes  Shuhei Omi (‘18), Shereen Lee (‘19), Brandon Chen (‘18), Kelly Phil (‘20), Emily Hsu (‘20), and David Wang (‘19). The other team includes Eming Shyu (‘21), Aidan Boyle (‘21), and Henri Reyes (‘21).

In the first round, teams submit an essay of up to 2,800 words either agreeing or disagreeing with the prompt, called a resolution. This year, teams debated on the topic, “Resolved: International climate accords for greenhouse gas emissions should adopt binding enforcement mechanisms.” Shuhei, Shereen, Brandon, Kelly, Emily, and David chose to disagree; meanwhile, the freshman team took the affirmative side. “Our main argument was that the world would never sign up to binding mechanisms, so the resolution wouldn’t actually do anything,” says Shuhei.

At TAS, teams typically begin preparing in mid-September, receiving feedback from debate coaches and going through several drafts before submitting their final essay in mid-October. However, Eming, Aidan, and Henri chose to write theirs all at once. “I can’t believe it. I thought for sure we wouldn’t make it, comparing our essay with the samples from last year,” says Henri about his team’s success. “We finished half an hour before the deadline at midnight, working for six straight hours from scratch to the final product.”

Shuhei believes that one positive aspect about participating in IPPF this year is the resolution’s real-world implications. “One recurring theme I found in my research was that the prevailing economic system steers the world straight into climate change,” he says. “The fall of capitalism is definitely not inevitable, but climate change is one of many reasons why we should say no to tolerating it as an economic system.”

Now that they have qualified for the Round of 64, teams will email essays back and forth following the structure of an in-person debate, allowing teams on opposing sides to rebut each other’s arguments. Upon reaching the Top 32 round, this process repeats itself, with teams facing off to reach the Sweet 16. Finally, the top eight teams, called the Elite 8, win a free trip to New York City to debate orally face-to-face. Last year, Katie Fong (‘17), Aaron Gould (‘17), Jeremiah Hsu (‘17), Alan Tsai (‘17), Cherice Tsai (‘17), and Paul Imbrogulio (‘17) managed to reach the Elite 8.

“I think we can win,” says Brandon. “We work really well together.” Henri, though, is not optimistic about his team’s chances of replicating the previous TAS team’s success. He says, “I’m absolutely confident we’ll get steamrolled even before NYC.”

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