Debater makes history at Katy High
Chandler Scott is making history for Katy High School.
The senior is headed to the University Interscholastic League Congressional Debate contest Jan. 7-9 in Austin. He is the first UIL Congressional Debate qualifier in the history of the high school, according to school officials.
Making history for his high school doesn’t put any extra pressure on him, though. Rather Chandler said, “I feel a lot of pride and accomplishment” at this special opportunity to compete.
Congressional Debate re-creates a legislative assembly where students draft bills and resolutions which are the subject of debate by them and their student competitors who work toward passing laws.
Other students representing the Katy ISD as state qualifiers in the Region 4 Student Congress 6A debate competition are Olga Briceno of Seven Lakes High School and Clarisse Manuel of Katy Taylor High School. They are among a total of 16 students who are Region 4 Student Congress state qualifiers.
Krista Nix-Buckner, who has taught debate at Katy High School since 2013, said Chandler advanced to the final rounds of UIL last year and she has high hopes for him this year.
“He’s coming from one of the most competitive congressional areas in the whole country,” she said. “Houston is an incredibly competitive area. I think Chandler has a good shot at it. I’m really excited.”
Chandler’s role will be one of a mock legislator. He called Congressional Debate a unique event at which elaborate ideas on certain topics are thoroughly debated. “Preparation is pretty rigorous,” he added, describing it as almost at the university-level type of research of ideas and world issues. “I constantly search all news sources to learn new things about the world,” said Chandler.
The competition rates highly not only those who speak their positions well but also those who are knowledgeable about their topics and have the background to rebut their critics during debate.
Nix-Buckner said Chandler has a smooth, quality delivery when he speaks. “The quality of analysis and research and argumentation within the speech,” also is very important she said. Nix-Buckner, who has served as a judge in Texas Forensic Association debate competitions, said some people make the same arguments over and over again.
“Unique and insightful arguments distinguish Chandler,” said Nix-Buckner. He has strong knowledge of foreign and domestic policy, she said. “That allows him to have the kind of insight on topics a lot of students just lack.”
Once a student establishes basic skills in public speaking, said Nix-Buckner, “Content research is really critical to success.”
She explained that mock legislators are questioned by their peers and judges after their presentations. “You’re not just asking questions but answering them in a masterful way.”
In a debate situation, if someone presses the presenter hard for a claim made, the presenter needs to provide evidence to back up what they’re saying.
Before debate, Chandler said he was a S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) person. Through debate and the opportunity it has presented, Chandler said he’s shaped his world view as a young adult and adult to fight for values that he holds dear like democracy and citizen participation. After high school, he plans to major in business/economics in college, earn a pre-law certification and become a business or international lawyer.
Family history plays a role. He explained his mother Homa Barakzoy-Scott was a refugee from Afghanistan who came to America in 1984 with only the clothes on their back to build a life for him and his older sister. “It’s really a unique situation and really a unique history. It’s shaped the way I think of international politics.”
He talked of atrocities committed in Afghanistan by international actors and said it’s given him a world view where he continuously proposes legislation targeting injustice in education domestically or in crises happening around the world ie Yemen and Somalia.
“It’s very important that I have that history,” said Chandler who added he encourages fellow debaters to think of the world and to grow their knowledge of what must be changed and the injustices that must be stopped.
The diverse student community he found himself in at Katy Junior High also allowed him to learn different political ideas, too, he added.
Preparation for competition is a combination of classroom instruction and out-of-class practice, said Nix-Buckner. And before the three-hour competitive round of Congressional Debate begins, students meet and develop relationships with other schools’ students to make connections and establish themselves in the debate community.
Chandler does more than debate. His extracurricular activities include National Honor Society, Interact Club and volunteering in the community. He also works 15 to 20 hours per week at Chick-fil-A.
Nix-Buckner said, “Chandler never has a down minute. He’s prepping for a tournament or doing volunteer service hours. I know no matter what’s going on, Chandler’s got something he’s working on.”
With his part-time job, he also helps his mom, said Nix-Buckner, covering the cost of his vehicle and using money for debate-related material.