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Letter: Debate Isn’t New at Hanover High

To the Editor:

In your April 30 story about Hanover High student Katherine Chen receiving a National Merit Scholarship (“Merit Rewarded”), I was staggered by the statement of Dresden School Board Vice Chairman Erika Finlayson, that “for years, there had been talk of establishing a debate team at Hanover High.” While Chen’s accomplishments are certainly to be lauded and she is not to be blamed for the lack of institutional memory, Hanover High once — not so long ago — boasted a fearsome debate team, well-known for its strong novice pairs. It was the brainchild of history teacher Donna Strange, a remarkable woman who attracted many of the Upper Valley’s finest minds to her classes and pulled other students (this one included) back from the brink of failure. Formed in 2001, the debate team competed regionally in public forum, Lincoln-Douglas and parliamentary styles, and nationally in the more rigorous policy debate. In the 2004-2005 season, the team had over 50 active members and sent one pair, John Gamble and Nick Greenfield, to the Tournament of Champions, the national championship for policy debate.

For a few years, the Ivy League was littered with students who owed much of their intellectual development to Mrs. Strange and Hanover debate. But the debate team was not popular with other teachers or with the Hanover administration — it bred free thinkers. Mrs. Strange’s abrupt and surprising resignation in 2004 was the beginning of the end: The team survived only two more years under student and ad-hoc leadership.

I was saddened but hardly surprised to learn that the history of Hanover debate had been so quickly and thoroughly erased. When I posted a picture of the article on Facebook, Eric Phetteplace (Hanover ’03, Stanford ’07) aptly summarized the situation, writing: “They keep trying to kill it, but it just comes back stronger.”

Jacon Mayer, Hanover High ’05

South Royalton

Related

School Notes: Hanover Student Wins National Merit Scholarship

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

There was no debating that Hanover High School senior Katherine Chen is one of the top students not only in her school, but the state. She’s a Harvard-bound semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholars competition, a state debate champion, and a member of the Hanover High team that ranked tops in an annual math modeling contest. Now, with Chen being …