Model Congress gathers gavels at Dalton tournament

Vivien Sweet, Staff Writer

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The school’s Model Congress team competed in a conference at The Dalton School last Sunday, debating high school students from schools across the tri-state area, and earning several awards.

High school Model Congress split students up into specific committees of around 15 people to emulate the United States Congress, team member Malhaar Agrawal (11) said.

In the small committees, students act as delegates and vote for potential bills concerning topics such as public works and the environment. Then, all the committees meet together to vote for a couple of select bills and to present their committees’ work, Agrawal said.

Awards in the form of gavels are given out to the best delegates in each committee and in the collective full committee. Madhav Menon (10) won a gavel for the full committee, and Amelia Feiner (11) and Irati Egorho Diez (11) both won gavels in their individual committees.

Since the Dalton conference was only one day long, there were only around 100 students participating, many of whom had competed at the same tournaments as the team had earlier this year, Model Congress member Emma Djoganopoulos (10) said. The ratio of skilled debaters to normal participants made it difficult to pass bills.

Djoganopoulos was readily prepared to debate her opponents in her committee since she had researched information that pertained to her committee concerning education and labor, she said.

Amishi Desai (10), who debated alongside Djoganopoulos in her committee, wrote her bill concerning the creation of a nationwide minimum wage for prison laborers. Even though there were not a lot of opportunities to speak at the conference due to its one-day time frame, Desai was able to get her bill passed, she said.

At the full gathering, Agrawal spoke about his bill arguing for the killing of more deer, where the federal government would hire hunters to kill deer and extend the hunting season to fix the ecosystem, he said.

One key difference that separated this conference from previous ones was that the team’s presidents, Ben Metzner (12) and Arul Kapoor (12), watched other members debate rather than participate themselves, Blackman said.

“Since I’ve been in the same committee as previous tournaments and already prepared my bill, I got to walk around and watch the underclassmen debate in their committee,” Jack Blackman (11) said. “It was really inspiring to see how well they were speaking.”

According to Metzner, a stipulation of the conference was that no seniors debated since it was only a one-day conference. However, the conference helped him and Kapoor evaluate the juniors’ participation so that they could make decisions regarding leadership next year, Metzner said.

Debaters seemed to get “more nervous when Arul and Ben were watching them versus when 50 other competitors were, because they knew that the presidents were actually paying attention to what they were saying,” Blackman said.

Because many inexperienced underclassmen joined the school’s Model Congress team this year, there was a bit of a “learning curve,” Metzner said. However, taking that into consideration, the Dalton conference went well, with a couple underclassmen winning awards, he said.

“We have a bunch of kids who just joined the club this year and were super successful at their first conference.” Metzner said. “It makes you feel good about the future of the club.”