Cayden’s Story: The Citywide Top JV Speaker’s Take on Virtual Debate

JV Debate

Cayden Mayer has successfully made the leap from novice to JV debate virtually at Central High School.

In the next installment of our “Day in the Life of a Virtual Debater” series, we spoke with Cayden Mayer. They’re a 10th grade student and Junior Varsity debater at Central High School. They were named the Top JV Speaker at our Citywide Championship! During this season, Cayden’s been a consistent top 10 speaker and top team with partner Maren Lien. Cayden thoughtfully reflected about their experience in this unusual year of debate:

How has COVID-19 impacted you?

My life hasn’t changed in any unique way that everyone else’s hasn’t. COVID-19 has been eye-opening… Watching the stimulus packages get slowed down every single time by both sides, watching the absolute disparities affecting minority communities without any sort of government recognition, watching all the criminal justice issues occur – it made me realize just how far we need to go.

What’s Virtual Debate Like?

It’s been interesting. The actual debate itself, the physical round, is not that different. It’s slightly more annoying with tech issues. What’s different is that you don’t get the bus ride there, the team experience of walking people to their rounds. The team building experience and small conversations are gone. It somehow feels more stressful and less real at the same time!

But we’re all working on team building. We’ve played some Among Us, which is fun. We’re putting more check-in meetings in place next year.

What’s Getting You Through the Difficult Parts? 

Even though debate is stressful, it’s still fun for me. I love doing Cross-X and the rebuttal speeches.

Citywide Championship was fun because those are the people you go to camp with and regularly compete against. Joking around before rounds and before an RFD is fun.

It helps that the topic is really interesting and matters to the real world a lot. The affirmative plans have been so interesting to hear this year.

On the Criminal Justice Reform Topic

There’s another aspect to debate this year. This topic so drastically affects people in the real world. We’re saying debate arguments, but you’re also discussing the real world. Most people we debated against were very respectful- they don’t deny that there is a systemic issue, they just argue about what the solution is. At camp, we talked about content warnings before an affirmative speech and prepping a different aff in case someone has an issue with the original one. During the season, I saw a lot of surveys.

As soon as the conversation about criminal justice shifted this year, I was already working on research for debate camp. I felt a lot more informed about root issues that were causing what we saw. Because everything was happening live and the research I was doing came from articles from 2010-2019, it was weird. You could see that these issues had existed for decades.

My partner and I have been running an affirmative plan about the War on Drugs. I have an entire Word doc of research [for plans] we tried to write. I wrote an aff to legalize and decriminalize sex work. We worked on a plan for forensic science reform. The plan that I really wanted to write, but never got around to, was addressing Guantanamo Bay. It was difficult to make it topical, but I did a lot of research about it. We also worked on a plan to decriminalize homelessness.

I wanted to run a Transgender Under Commons kritik. The link behind it is that the criminal justice system does a terrible job of respecting trans people’s identities within prisons. It’s based off Foucault’s ideas that there are different ways to view sexuality and gender. The interpretations of gender and sexuality we experience now come from the same things in the past, but those interpretations were different then. The argument is that we can revert back to those roots, and recognize the ways our current interpretations are damaging.

Making the Shift from Novice to JV

This was my first year doing junior varsity debate. It’s very, very overwhelming in the start. There are still things I don’t know. The jump was tricky. I’m really glad that I went to camp, because I had a lot of questions about what exactly a CP, a K, and such are at their core. I loved having the total freedom, though. It’s nice to be able to talk about the things that you personally want to talk about. It’s really addressing the core argument. You can debate the core problem, even on the negative side. Those are the discussions I want to have.

What Do You Get from Debating?

I get a lot of education from debate. I learn about how the government functions, the different actors at play, as well as the economy and how every single thing is intertwined. Also, how to write and speak in front of people has become easier. I’ve learned how to formulate my thoughts on the fly. My ability to write a paper quickly has drastically improved, the more that I did debate. Plus, it’s just fun!

Help more students like Cayden have a chance to debate about critical issues. Make a gift before 2020 ends, and your contribution will be tripled, thanks to a generous match from Sam Gill and his employer! Give today: