谁说小中男不吸引人3: 大公校优秀学生访谈

李春燕    08/10     8370    

七月三十日晚上,亲子互助群邀请到了Evan Tong, rising senior, nationally ranked debater and debate team captain, president of FBLA, BOE student rep, varsity tennis player etc. Evan是我从小看大的孩子,却不了解高中阶段他做了这么多事。我们的访谈主要在辩论方面,但很多关于华人男生成长、家庭影响的问题吸引了众位家长参与,请仔细阅读并欢迎转发。


Hi everyone! My name is Evan Tong. I am a rising senior at Livingston High School and I would characterize myself as an outgoing, involved, and driven student with academic and extracurricular interests in multi-disciplinary areas. I have been the captain of the Livingston Debate Team for the past two years and have been debating in Public Forum for my entire high school career. 

As a competitor, I have been ranked as high as 67th in the nation, placed top 16 in the nation at the NCFL Grand National Tournament, top 16 at the Princeton Invitational, and Top 5 at the University of Pennsylvania Tournament. I have qualified for the Tournament of Champions in my sophomore and junior years, a tournament that only accepts that top 90 teams in the country. In 2017 I also qualified for the NSDA National Tournament. 

I recently ran a campaign and became the Student Representative to the Livingston Board of Education, representing and overseeing ~6000 students in the district. In my junior year, I was also the President of the Future Business Leaders of America, and as a competitor for FBLA I am a three time national qualifier. I also enjoy playing tennis and compete on Livingston’s varsity team. 

I.Debate Related:

Question 1: Why do I want to do debate?

Debate is such a special activity because at the end of the day, it is simply fun. It forces me to think beyond subjects taught in class and requires me to be quick on my feet. It is so enjoyable to go head to head on challenging topics and have every round to be different. 

Question 2: What are the types of debate?

The two main types of high school debate are Pubic Forum and Lincoln Douglas. Some schools also participate in Policy Debate but it is not heavily debated in NJ and is a lot less popular. 

Public Forum: PF Debate is the most popular and accessible form of debate. This is a partner event, so a debate round involves opposing teams of two, debating a topic concerning a current global event. Every month, the National Speech and Debate Association releases a new resolution that all students across the country must prepare for. 

PF is called “public” forum because it is meant to appeal to the lay person. Judges are often parents and other community members that volunteer and the resolutions are centered around important policies that are directly prominent in real life. 

Lincoln Douglas: LD Debate has a one-on-one format. Students debate a topic provided by the NSDA that switch every two months. Topics center around philosophical or moral questions. In my opinion LD is harder to get into due to the breadth of knowledge required. However, I do think that if someone is really passionate about LD, the payoff is definitely worth it. 

Question 3: what are the various levels of competition?

There are three levels of competition: local, state, and national tournaments. 

Local tournaments typically last only one day and teams usually come from nearby towns. The two types of tournaments at this scale are CFLs and NJFLs. CFLs are held one a month from October to March. Teams get points based on how well they do at these CFLs at the end of the CFL season, the six highest scoring teams, accumulating the points from each tournament, qualify for the NCFL Grand National Tournament.

The second type of local is a NJFL. NJFLs are also valuable in that if you do place top 6 in one of the tournaments, you qualify for the state tournament. The NJ State Championship takes place once a year in March. 

The more important tournaments are national circuit tournaments. These tournaments are typically hosted by colleges or schools that have extremely notable Speech and Debate programs. Large tournaments like Yale or Bronx Science can range upwards of 250 teams. Anyone can attend and teams travel from all across the country to attend these tournaments. These tournaments are prestigious due to the high level of competition and that it is possible to earn a bid to the Tournament of Champions through doing well. 

This leads to the main three national tournaments that require intense stages of qualification:

There are three national tournaments that require qualification.

Tournament of Champions: The ToC is held each April at the University of Kentucky. This is arguably the hardest tournament to qualify for and certainly the most prestigious within the debate community. Reaching this tournament is usually one of the biggest goals for teams across the country. It cements your spot as a top debater. My partner and I have qualified twice to ToC in 2016 and 2017.

National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament: Teams can qualify for NSDA Nationals through placing in the top three at the district tournament. This is the oldest and probably most well-known of the three national tournaments. My partner and I have qualified for 2017 NSDA Nationals held in June at Birmingham, Alabama.

National Catholic Forensics League Grand National Tournament: Teams can qualify based on results at the local CFL stage.  My partner and I qualified for NCFL Grand National Tournament in 2016 and finished in the top 16.

Question 4: How to prepare for a tournament?

Preparing for a tournament is time consuming and requires extensive research. Students must do background research on the historical context of the issue, think of impactful arguments, research and write cases, and write blocks (responses to possible advocacies that the opposite side may make).

Question 5: What is the best age to start?

I would advise starting as early as possible, preferably in middle school. Debate requires a lot of knowledge and the ability to think on one’s feet. It takes time to understand the nuances and strategy of higher level debate. Even at its most basic level, competitive debate is far more than just bickering back and forth like an argument between friends. 

Question 6: How to start to learn debate?

Start by attending camps where you can learn the basics and have practice rounds. My partner and I will open a debate camp for middle school kids in Livingston on 8/14 – 18. You can find more information or sign up at: http://summerdebate.weebly.com

During the year, I would encourage students to hire a coach or join a program that will provide coaching such as Lumos Debate (a camp I have also taught at) or Capitol Debate. You can even attend national circuit tournaments as a middle schooler and that is a great experience for growth.

Question 7: What is the role of a captain?

Being a captain at Livingston requires a lot of time commitment because we do not have a lot of funding. My partner and I led practices through creating topic analysis, discussing arguments, and doing various drills. We coached the novices by teaching them basic format and structure at first and complex strategy towards the end of the year.

We also had to be available outside of team practices to help edit their cases, judge their practice rounds, and give them additional feedback. Moreover, our role encompassed a logistical aspect as well. We organized team trips to tournaments, made sign ups on Tabroom, and booked buses and hotels.

Question 8: What are parents' roles? Do you have team coaches?

Parents have three main roles.

1.They may be called upon to judge at tournaments.

2.At Livingston where we do not get busing they may have to drive their children to tournaments.

3.Tournaments can be expensive because of entry and judging fees. Be ready to write some checks :)

(Evan's mom: And paying flight tickets too.)

We get buses for CFLs but not for national circuit tournaments. Carpooling is essential. 

We have two coaches but they don't contribute much to the team. Team captains are really the ones to run everything.

Question 9: Does debate shape your political views?

I think that for myself and for most debaters, we maintained our general viewpoints that we had before coming into debate. However, debate teaches people to become more politically tolerant and understanding of all different viewpoints because teams have to research multiple aspects of multiple topics. 

I think that many people have a misconception that debate can become too politically charged and generate animosity or other sorts of uncomfortable discussion. But this is not true. Debate is more fact based than opinion based. Teams must have carefully prepared cases that center around statistics and analysis from reputable sources, not editorials. 

Question 10: How has debate changed you?

Debate has made me more open minded as a result of understanding more viewpoints. Debate has given me profound understanding of so many topics that shape our society. Debate has taught me how to be more logical and rational with my thinking. It has forced me to learn how to research and write more effectively. 

I can honestly go on and on with this list, which I think is a testament to how useful and meaningful this activity is. I think that debate is the most educational extracurricular that a student can join as it reaches beyond the confines of the normal high school walls and perplexes competitors with macro-level public policy that truly impact the way that people live.

Question 11. What if you get assignment that you don't believe in?

In debate you have to be able to debate both sides from all different angles, so there never really comes a point where the resolution clashes with your personal opinion. Resolutions are general and allow you to make your own interpretations.

II: Other Activities 

Question 12. Why did you run BOE rep at such a busy time of your high school studies?

I have an intense passion for policy, which is a result of my participation in debate. 

Working with the BOE will allow me to interact with constituents of the town, students, and our local policymakers. This critical intersection of interests will give me the opportunity to observe and experience first-hand the political maneuvering and open communication necessary in any policy based career. But more importantly, it will allow me to make sure that all voices are heard. I truly believe that the student perspective is incredibly valuable in crafting influential policies. This is why I personally look to take an active role in policy suggestions and make the student body more aware of BOE meetings in order to connect the decisions with the students who will be affected by the implementation.

Even though this will be a lot of work during such a hectic time period, I believe I will be able to manage my time effectively. And in this upcoming year specifically, the BOE is creating a new 5 year Strategic Plan so I knew I would have the ability to make impactful changes.

Question 13. What is FBLA? Why did you get involved?

FBLA stands for the Future Business Leaders of America. FBLA is made up of different competitive testing or presentation events that focus on business topics from Securities and Investments to Business Ethics. Students who place within the top four at the State Conference also qualify for the National Conference. These conferences allow students to network with like-minded ambitious peers, attend workshops, and meet different companies. 

I joined as the Vice President in my freshman year and became the President last year. I love this club because it provides a unique extracurricular opportunity to focus on business whereas most other clubs are STEM or humanity based. 

Question 14. You are in a very competitive tennis team that is a lot on top of your busy schedule. Why is playing a sport important? 

I think playing a sport is important for three main reasons.

1.Mental health. I have been playing tennis since sixth grade and it is truly something that I enjoy. Be able to go out and play after school gives me a needed break from the constant stream of school work. It allows me to relax and unload before I continue to study.

2.Physical health. I think that maintaining one’s fitness is crucial to overall health. Too many people forget that health should always be a main priority; otherwise it is far too easy to burn out in the long run.

3.Social life. I have met many close friends through playing tennis starting back in the middle school team. A student’s social life is important to developing him/her as a person. This is another aspect of high school that is important to life as a whole. Without positive, durable relationships, both our minds and our bodies fall apart. And given the rigor and stress of the academic environment, the tenor of a student’s social life is one of the most important influences on his/her mental health.

III. Time management

Question 15: give advice to parents of high schoolers and middle schoolers.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe in any gimmicks when it comes to time management. For me, it really just comes down to self-discipline. Try to instill the drive motivation within your child because it comes down to them to sit down and get their work done. Some days in my junior year I had five major exams in a single day. Even given other tricks and tips, if I didn’t have the discipline to just sit down and finish my work, I would have failed.

But with that said, there are some strategies for time management. 

1.Stress the importance of prioritization. Mentally or physically (you can write down a plan) allot time for different subjects. For example, if I had a major AP Calculus test and an AP Government test in one day, I would probably spend around four hours studying for calculus and one hour studying for Government. Some classes are definitely harder than others so understanding how to prioritize will allow you to build an effective schedule. 

2.Limit social media and other wasteful internet use. The biggest way students procrastinate is by getting sucked into different social media or content streaming sites like YouTube. You have to discipline yourself to avoid these websites. I would also put my phone away when doing work so I would not get distracted by different notifications. 

3.If you are overwhelmed by work then create a task schedule on Google Calendar or Apple iCalendar and coordinate these calendars with your phone. Structure your day and give yourself specified times that you have to finish your work within.

As hoc questions.

Question 16: Do you have a debating coach outside of the school?

No I personally don't, although I think personal coaches are extremely useful and most top teams do have their own coaches.

Question 17: What type of students are really into debate? Are they usually outgoing? Have you seen any introverts doing well? 

I think all sorts of students do debate, both introverts and extroverts. I think both my partner and I started off as introverts but debate helped us open up and become more extroverted.

Question 18: How can middle schooler have opportunity to participate in some debate tournament?

Middle schoolers are allowed to sign up for tournaments on tabroom.com. There are a lot of middle school tournaments and Livingston even hosts one in April. Joining debate can be confusing at first, however, so I would encourage you to find debate organizations like Capitol Debate or Lumos Debate.

Question 19: How much does the "judge factor" impact the result of the debate?

Judges definitely do have an effect because some of them are not used to judging debate or may have some biases. However, most of the time, judges are pretty neutral and good teams can win over any type of judge.

Question 20: Capital debate or lumos debate, which one is better or more suitable to middle schooler?

Capitol Debate is a bigger program and may be able to join you with more students who do debate. But Lumos Debate is a program local to the northeast and having been an instructor on their staff I think that they are better because they provide more individualized attention.

Question 21: Does the Lumos institute organize travel teams during the year?

Lumos doesn't organize travel teams but you can work one on one with their staff who will help you prep, sign up for tournaments, and even go to tournaments with you and coach you throughout rounds.

Lumos is better for people who have middle school debate programs and are more so just looking for the opportunity to go to more tournaments and get better advice. If you do not know where to begin at all and want to be surrounded in that debate environment, Capitol might be better for that.

Question 22: On the national circuit, would you recommend smaller tournaments or larger, more established ones if you are seeking bids?

In my opinion I think larger tournaments are better. This is because the quality of the judges are usually superior and the larger pool normally means you will meet worse teams in prelim rounds.

The benefit of smaller tournaments is that less top teams go, but to get a bid you also need to advance higher than you would have to at a larger tournament.

For example, at Harvard with almost 300 teams you need to finish in the top 16 to bid. At a smaller tournament like the Villiger Invitational with around 100 teams, you have to finish in the top 4 to bid.

Question 23: What do you think of hybrid cases, or separate cases specifically to counter one argument? There is a newer trend when cases are built with an extra contention that can be swapped in, say for a specific pro contention that is very popular

My overall way of thinking about cases is to find the most impactful arguments, regardless of what the opponents may run.

I think that that is an acceptable thing to do. I have run hybrid cases in the past when I didn't know which of my arguments would be best. But I think you should ultimately just run a case that has the strongest arguments.

Question 24: Could u comment on your parents' role in your growth? I was telling the group about how your dad has been serving the Chinese community for many years, and how your mom is so supportive of your activities.

Because of their experience as first generation immigrants, my parents taught me that I should always search for ways to better my circumstances. This mentality has fed my drive and ambition. I've grown more resilient and adaptable watching my parents succeed despite all odds and learning from their mentality. I know that my parents gave up many of their dreams to leave China so that my sister and I could achieve ours. I pride myself on a strong work ethic and I always strive to take advantage of any opportunities that I come across. I am immensely grateful to my family for having instilled these values within me.

My dad's role in the Chinese community has certainly inspired me to take larger leadership positions on in my clubs. And I am also thankful that my mom has allowed me to pursue my passions because I feel like activities such as debate have really shaped who I am.

Question 25: Don't you think your personality plays a role in you becoming the BOE rep? That people can relate to you--administrators, BOE members, students etc.

I think being able to communicate effectively is key here. I personally reached out to a lot of people and talked to them about their views and made sure people would understand that I could voice their ideas.

Question 26: What advice can you give to Chinese American boys in particular?

I would tell them to be proud of who they are and embrace their heritage. Be confident, driven, and outspoken.

I think that Chinese American boys can fight past a lot of discrimination or stereotypes by showing they are not shy or timid. This comes from accepting their culture as part of their identity and being able to project their voices without hesitation.

Question 27: This afternoon we were discussing a tendency for some Chinese Am boys to avoid choosing activities that are popular among the Chinese, such as debate or tennis. What is your view?

I would say that students shouldn't choose activities based on who else is doing it. Students should choose activities based on what they like and are passionate about. That is how they will go the farthest.

Question 28: What's the percentage of Asian students at your school? What's the percentage of Asian students on school debate team?

The percentage of Asian students at Livingston is 24%. I think that the percentage of Asian students on the school team is around 25%.

Question 29: Can a kid go to a debate tournament by himself (or a self formed team) not associated with a school? For example, can two kids from two different schools form partner to compete at the tournaments?

Some tournaments do allow kids to go to tournaments on teams formed by themselves. For example, Capitol Debate will help you form independent teams. However, some national tournaments do not accept these teams.

Question 30: Compared to your mom, I haven't been supportive to my son's debate effort (or what I call "craze") at all. I think debate at the highest level may just be for winning. And not much real learning.

No, I don't think the top level is about winning. The top level is where teams get the most pushed and have to think about arguments the most because they will be going against teams that are just as good as them and they will be truly challenged. This forces you to research more, come up with better arguments and better prep.

In debate you have to constantly prep new topics and constantly learn new things. It is a dynamic activity. No team is ever far and beyond better than other teams and everyone has to grow.

Question 31: Are you going to pursue a career where your experience of debate will be utilized?

I am interested in Policy, Economics, and Law. I think that debate has definitely prepared me for all of these career paths.

Question 32: What do you say to parents like me who are not so understanding? Not just in debate, but in general.

I think that students will have the most success doing the activities they are most passionate in. I would say to let your children follow what they want to do (as long as it is productive, preferably not like video games :)) because that is how they will learn the most and challenge themselves the most. I work so hard and prep so much for debate because I love to do it, and I think that is why I get so much value out of it.

I know AJ is a great LD debater and it is really tough to compete so well at such a high level. I have a high level of respect for LD as I know many of its philosophies go far beyond the research I do in PF. I think the knowledge he gets from that will stay with him forever no matter what he does, and it truly does set him up for other aspects of his education or career.

Question 33: If you have strong views on a particular subject, do you think that will impact your performance if you have to debate for the opposite side?

No I don't think having a strong impact makes it harder to debate for the other side. A well trained debater is able to adapt and find a way to make creative arguments no matter what.

ET's mom shared insights on ET's first meeting.

In his first BOE meeting, the Board proposed a new initiative, random drug testing in LHS. This happened to be a public forum debate topic in Sept. 2016. When the Superintendent asked Evan for his opinion, his answer to that was: “I think that reaching out to the community should be our number one priority because I could see a large student backlash happening from this. But if they see that this is non-punitive, I think that will go to assuage their fears surrounding this policy. This is really important considering the circumstances of our country where this is quickly becoming an epidemic.” 

It was reported in the town newspaper, which immediately drew a lot of responses from his student body.