Liam Skeoch (left), Liam and Emma Ford; JL Crowe Debate Team. Photos: Submitted

Liam Skeoch (left), Liam and Emma Ford; JL Crowe Debate Team. Photos: Submitted

Room erupts in cheer as Trail debate student takes top spot in B.C.

Law Foundation Cup 2023 Provincial Debate was held the first weekend in March via Zoom

Liam Skeoch has accomplished a milestone few students achieve before graduation, and he’s only in Grade 10.

Skeoch — a student at the Trail high school and ace debater — was named “Top Speaker” in the Law Foundation Cup 2023 Provincial Debate, senior category.

That means of all students across B.C. involved in debate, Skeoch placed number one in the category that includes grades 10, 11 and 12.

Aside from intrinsic motivation, what inspires young minds like his to learnedly debate complex issues of the day?

Skeoch says he started debating in Grade 8, right after he discovered the existence of the JL Crowe Debate Team.

“Since I was about nine I’ve wanted to be a lawyer, and ultimately a politician,” Skeoch shares. “I feel debate is congruent with this path, and, as such, I joined as soon as I could. I’m glad I did, it’s proved a defining hobby and one which I’m getting better at with every tournament.”

When preparing for competition, Skeoch says he typically spends 10 hours writing or researching per week. This is in addition to debate club meetings which happen regularly, both in person and virtually.

“This is because we only really get three weeks to prepare for each tournament, and if you want an accumulative study time of 30 hours, you have to invest all of what would otherwise be your free time,” Skeoch explains. “When there isn’t a particular topic for an upcoming tournament for which I am preparing, I maybe spend four to five hours a week in general practice, including the debate meetings.”

As far as the 2023 provincials, Skeoch says a wide variety of subjects were debated, ranging from the socio-economic backgrounds of criminals to mandatory post graduation apprenticeship.

“We debated the effectiveness of western media on conflict-inflicted countries like Ukraine, comparatively to that of domestic media institutions,” he notes. “We also discussed whether or not the institutionalization of art has proved more beneficial than harmful.”

The subjects were engaging and opponents were all quite strong, he recounted, noting the latter topic proved most memorable.

“The debate on art stood out in that it was quite unusual, yet yielded great clashes between teams nonetheless.”

The Trail team supported the motion, “This house believes the institutionalization of art has done more harm than good.”

“We argued that the characteristic which defines art, and makes it special, is the interpretation of it,” Skeoch explained. “The unorthodox method of expression that is art, makes it unique and therefore compelling. We suggested that the trend towards the institutionalization of art is harmful, in so far that it promotes the notion that good artists are made through schools and institutions, and that the creation of art should be from the heart, not from the creations of people before you,” he adds. “This motion stood out.”

Marilyn Lunde, JL Crowe teacher sponsor and coach, is thrilled to share the news about Skeoch’s exemplary performance at the Law Foundation Cup 2023, held virtually the first weekend of March.

“Along with his partner, Emma Ford, Liam was able to rise above all others to take the top spot as the best debater in the province for the year 2022-2023,” Lunde told the Trail Times.

“Liam’s announcement came in unexpected and exciting fashion as only one position was left to announce, of the top 20. When JL Crowe Secondary was spoken into the microphone, the room erupted in several jubilant cheers.”

At first it wasn’t apparent whose name was announced, just that a student from JL Crowe Secondary had taken the top spot.

“It was clear from the onlookers in the room that Liam Skeoch, a grade 10 student, had just beat out other practiced seniors, seasoned debaters as well as grade 11 and 12 students,” Lunde adds.

“The accomplishment is extraordinary.”

After the prepared topic for the provincial competition was released in early February, the JL Crowe team began researching, collecting articles and becoming familiar with resolutions. Retired lawyer and King’s Counsel, Leigh Harrison, provided a legal understanding for each of the junior and senior topics.

The final tournament day, students congregated at the Best Western Columbia Steakhouse in Trail for a four-star dinner before retreating to the Pend D’Oreille room for dessert. Here they watched the top two teams face off via Zoom. Award announcements followed.

The JL Crowe Debate Team thanks Leigh Harrison, Fred Ni (Liam and Emma’s Vancouver coach), the Debate and Speech Association of BC, the Canadian Bar Association, BC Division, Columbia Steakhouse, and Thompson, LeRose and Brown for their generous contributions to support students in their debating journey.

Doug Wilson represented Thompson, LeRose and Brown and the City of Trail in congratulating the students on their participation in this esteemed event. The debate team also thanks two local lawyers, Jacomien Van Tonder and Ryan Macklon as well as JL Crowe teacher Kim Eggert, and senior debater, Katie Mountain, for stepping up to judge at this event.

“Liam Skeoch has joined only a select number of students in the last 50 years to garner such accolades from the debate community,” Lunde adds. “Commendations to all those who support this activity and what it brings to our youth.”

Read more: Trail high school students excel at debate tourney

Read more: Trail and Rossland debate duo shine at 2022 Junior Nationals

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More about the debate topics:

The junior topic was: “Be it resolved that, on balance, BC Civil Resolution tribunals are a better method for resolving civil disputes under $35,000 than BC’s Small Claims Court. “This topic proved to be an interesting proposition for students between grade 6 and 9. JL Crowe entered three junior teams ranging from grade 8 to 9: Dean Sutherland paired with Fern Amas-Mazzitelli, Maddy Murchie paired with Lydia Moores and Andonae Van Staden joined Trinity Schneider. All students have a greater understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of online courts versus in-person Small Claims Court.

The senior topic, “Be it resolved that the sentencing of criminals takes the socio-economic background of the offender into account.” presented many interesting arguments including the consideration of trauma experienced by the aggressor before sentencing. JL Crowe seniors entered in this category included grade eleven’s, Oliver Ridge and Matthew Lewis and grade 10’s, Liam Skeoch and Emma Ford.

Once the two cross-examination prepared rounds were completed on Friday night, students moved to the Canadian National Debate Format (CNDF) on Saturday for the three impromptu debates. The Junior category (grade 6 to 9) debated the following three propositions: 1. This house would mandate that all secondary and post-secondary examinations be open-book tests. 2. This house opposes government funding of news media organizations. 3. Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. This house believes that young workers should embrace ‘quiet quitting’.

The senior category topics (grade 10, 11 and 12’s) included: 1. This house prefers a world where after Grade 12, students are required to complete a year of direct apprenticeship or career training in order to graduate. 2. This house would prioritize supporting domestic reporters in areas of conflict over the use of Western reporting agencies. And lastly, 3. The institutionalization of art includes but is not limited to the emphasis on formal art training in standardized curricula, the recognition of art through its placement in formal institutions (e.g., museums, galleries), and the requirement of academic credentials (e.g., university degrees in art). This house believes that the trend towards the institutionalization of art has done more harm than good.

British ColumbiaJL Crowe Secondary SchoolSchool District No. 20 Kootenay-ColumbiaStudents

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