Room for Debate

by James Hearne

Horizon Reporter

For Morgan Hein, how you say something is just as important as what you say. 

            The Whatcom Oration and Forensics League or WOFL, was started at Whatcom Community College this quarter, and Hein is the student leader. It is a debate society that is parliamentary in its style, meaning that, rather than presenting an argument using fact after fact, participants present a few key facts and connect them using logic and persuasion.  For that reason, they tend to focus on broader issues and avoid those that are controversial and contentious.

            “We try to stay away from religion,” Hein said.

            At a recent meeting, the topics discussed were varied. Each of the speakers had gotten their topics the week before, but were discouraged from preparing a lot of material in advance. They are allowed one 3-by-5 inch notecard, and given a short amount of time to present their perspective on their assigned topic. It’s called extemporaneous debate, or “extemp” for short. At debate tournaments, the rules can vary, with participants being given as little as 15 minutes to prepare.

              One topic that was presented was “Should physical currency be abolished?”

             Hein launches into his speech with very little introduction. “Do you know what the average dollar bill comes into contact with?” Hein asked. “You have blood, cocaine, and all kinds of germs. And let’s not forget the cost of production.”

            There are scattered cheers (and boos) from the seven or so in attendance. “I wrote my speech about 20 minutes ago,” Hein says, with a grin.  

            Hein said that he was a part of a debate club in high school and loved it. So, when he got to Whatcom, he decided to start one of his own.

The term “forensics” in the name may be confusing to people, who associate it with forensic science, the science of solving crime. Hein says that the word forensics comes from the Latin word, “forensic,” meaning “public” or “forum,” and that it originally meant the ability of persuasion and of public speaking.

            Hein says that he would love to debate with other colleges, and has already contacted the National Forensics League, to declare an intent to compete.

            When asked who would want to join the WOFL, Hein smiles and says, “Who wouldn’t?”

            “I would not be the person I am today without a club like this,” Hein says, “You don’t realize you love it until you try it yourself.” 

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The league meets at 4 pm on Wednesdays in Cascade 104.


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