Wanna Argue? Local Kids Are Best in the Nation

If you're going to start an argument, it might not be a good idea to start one with a member of the Lanier Middle School speech and debate team. As Jack Williams reports, the team is the New York Yankees of debate, with seven straight national championships.

"I'm hoping I'm a little nicer than Steinbrenner" 

Franz Hill has been the speech and debate coach at HISD's Lanier Middle School team for the past two years. He took over what was already considered a dynasty.

"The pressure is there. It's a little unspoken, but the kids are very motivated to do well and trying to make sure they have fun. I've been teaching for a while and I'll teach for a long time, but for them it's three years of their lives, so it's kind of a short span. They want to make sure they can make the most of hit and I want them to have a good time doing it."       

About 100 kids are part of the squad that recently won its 7th consecutive national championship in San Antonio. They competed against 30 other teams from across the country.

"They have an innate desire to argue and we talk a little bit about that, how that's sort of one of the last survival instincts I think people have is sort of that desire just to be right. But as far as day-in, day-out goes, we do practice rounds. They come to class, we talk about issues, we discuss issues and they do prepare, and that's one advantage that they have I think that a lot of teams don't, is we see each other every other day for 90 minutes and that gives them opportunities to really work out their cases."      

Ben Lui just graduated from 8th grade and is headed for high school. He was one of the cornerstones of this year's Lanier team.

"I'm not really argumentative at all usually, unless it's something like you say something completely ridiculous. Debate is just fun for me."

He was a finalist in what's known as Lincoln-Douglas Debate, one-on-one debating that places emphasis on logic and ethical values.

"It's really fun, because during rounds, you just feel great. To me, it just comes naturally. In LD, basically all you're thinking is what your opponent said, what you said and your brain feels like it's going at 100 miles-an-hour." 

"I love the stage you know. Love speaking in front of people so it's really easy for. It's just really fun."

Andrew Haworth is going into 8th grade at Lanier. Kind of reserved off stage, he opens up in front of an audience. His specialty is humorous interpretation speech.

"Do you want to come 'round my house and tap things on my Game Cube after school?"

"Uh, sorry Gregory, busy. Thanks though."

"I've got a new train set."

"I don't need to turn around to know he's grinning like a psychopath."

"It's just kind of an honor to be on this team. We're worried about every nationals, you know, keeping up the seven year run I guess, but, we always make it." 

With that bit of confidence, Lanier Middle School will try to make it eight in a row next school year.

image of Lanier Middle School Debate team
Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...