Rockbridge Academy Blog
Debate: Adaptability to Overcome Disappointment
During a normal year, the Rockbridge Academy debate team would travel to Virginia and stay at the Lawings’ grandparents’ home for a weekend of debating at Summit Christian Academy. However, it has become exceedingly obvious that 2020 is anything but a normal year. Due to Covid-19, the three schools participating in the tournament were already restricted to Zooming into the debates from their respective school buildings. But a last-minute Covid-19 closure at Rockbridge meant that all our debaters were forced to pivot once again and debate from their homes. As a first year debater and student used to Covid related disruptions, I prepared myself for a disaster. But Rockbridge debaters made it happen, communicating with their partners on the phone during prep time and presenting their cases from their home offices, bedrooms, and basements. Despite this unpredictable year, the debate team has had a rewarding and successful start.
So many things have changed this school year, but the benefits of debate have remained steadfast. Whether you are a novice, JV, or Varsity debater, there are opportunities to learn and hone skills. Trinity Jordan, Rockbridge eleventh grader and first year debater, said, “It definitely brings me out of my comfort zone because I don’t like to put my opinion out there a lot, but debate has caused me to be more confident in what I say.”
Being able to think logically and compose winsome arguments are extremely beneficial skills. As Michael Grube, Rockbridge ninth grader and second year debater, put it, “People these days don’t really argue what is true; they just argue what they feel. So debate is really good at teaching you how to argue truth through reasoning and support for your arguments.” In just my first few months of debate, I have become much more confident in my ability to think and respond on my feet.
Luke Sweeney, Rockbridge senior who has been in debate since eighth grade, said, “It definitely helps with listening and being able to compose clear, coherent arguments on the spot, because in almost every debate you get an argument that you’ve never heard before and in the next speech you have to give a refutation.” In other words, you have to be adaptable. Debate teaches students how to think on their feet and adjust quickly to new information or an unforeseen situation. I truly think that the training and preparation we did in debate class better prepared the team to pivot last minute and make debating from their homes work. Doing debate serves so much more of a purpose than just filling the elective slot. It prepares you to think critically and respond persuasively in real life.
Despite the less than desirable circumstances, the Rockbridge debate team has had a successful year thus far. In Varsity, Luke Sweeney and Jack McLaughlin won third place. In JV, Michael Grube and Kait Atwood won first place and Nash Bailey and Olivia Reardon won third place. Perhaps the biggest success however, is how the debate team has been able to build community with one another despite Covid-19 restrictions. Going outside, playing games to improve our speech and improvisation, and preparing for the tournament with one another has brought students from all different grades and debating experiences together. Jordan said, “It is a really uplifting community. I especially noticed it when we were doing our practice debates; they give us a lot of constructive criticism but in the nicest way possible.” The Rockbridge Academy debate team was able to overcome unanticipated obstacles and participate in a successful debate tournament by allowing our plan to be adapted to God’s perfect one.
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book. She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.
The Motto Amid Trial
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
It is from these verses in the New Testament that our school motto comes: In captivitatem redigentes omnem intellectum in obsequium Christi. “Intellectum” is the Latin word translated in the ESV as “thought.” The Latin word also has the connotation of understanding, recognition, or sense. “Intellecti” are how we make sense of the world. We don’t always make sense of the world in well-fleshed out arguments and intellectual queries. Most often, our thoughts revolve around the happenings of our lives; our worries, excitements, milestones. The Rockbridge motto argues that these should be taken captive just as much as their well-formulated cousins.
The Paul of 2 Corinthians is no stranger to pervasive thoughts. I’m sure his worries often seemed all encompassing. Facing jail time and unfaithful churches, anxiety must have abounded. But these are the exact kind of thoughts that must be held captive, checked against the knowledge of God and shaped into obedience to Christ to find ultimate comfort and peace. God has promised faithfulness and love and such un-captivated thoughts deny those promises.
Starting a school year in the wake of the COVID pandemic ushers in a whole slate of new worries for many of us. Between distance learning and health concerns, we may be able to relate to Paul’s struggles and anxious thoughts better than we would’ve liked. However, even though we may continue to pick apart Plato, and see God’s fingerprints in calculus, if we do not redirect our worried and anxious thoughts to God’s truth and love, we will not wage spiritual warfare like Paul describes in the first verse. This process of taking our thoughts captive is a strategy on the spiritual battlefield. Doubts and fears can’t stand in our hearts when they are constantly compared to the standard of God.
This is often not as simple as merely recognizing worries and doubts for what they are. It requires us to consistently remind ourselves of the truth about God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Meditating on God’s word must become a knee-jerk reaction to the trials we face. Belittling those trials is not a solution; the answer comes when we can recognize the true depth of our hardships and continue to remember that even the worst trials will never surpass God’s power and sovereignty. To deny suffering does not increase God’s glory. But He is glorified when we respond to our struggles by turning to His Word.
By taking captive our COVID-obsessed thoughts, we can compare them to the true Word. When they remind us to turn to the God who heals, we should root them fast in our hearts. When they wedge worry and doubt between ourselves and that healing God, we must learn to sacrifice them to our ultimate truth-giver.
Taking thoughts captive is a war-strategy the soldier Christian must learn to employ. The battlefield is their heart, and the prize is peace. As we shape our thoughts into obedience to Christ, we can strip our worries of their blinding control over us. If lofty opinions and strongholds don’t stand a chance, as Paul says, neither do our virus inspired thoughts.
This isn’t to deny the inherently worrying nature of the last six months. Trying to get a child’s education back on track after three months of impromptu homeschooling in the midst of a global pandemic is as good a reason as any to feel nervous. Not to mention the fears naturally built into a long-term state of emergency and the sickness and death surrounding us. But the Christian has the unique ability to persist against these kinds of thoughts during trial, because he can take them captive to a perfectly unchanging thing— the Word. As Christ is the Word incarnate, obedience to Him means accordance with the Word of God. That Word, that truth of God, doesn’t change no matter the number of new COVID cases or Paul’s prison sentence. If anything, the message of hope and faithfulness shines even more starkly against a dark and uncertain background. God asks us to bring our griefs, worries, and problems to Him, so He can solve them with His overflowing love and grace.
I think this is why 2 Corinthians 10:5 is the motto of Rockbridge Academy. The verse doesn’t only mean that the teachers and students pick apart academic conclusions from a Christian worldview, though that is critical. When crises mount against the community, peace will ultimately come when each of our most emotional and personal thoughts are also taken captive to the obedience of Christ. At root, this motto means that the administrators, teachers, staff, and students practice dedicating their worries, joys, fears, and opinions in submission to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, no matter the trial, even a pandemic.
Emily Marsh, '19, is excited to build the Rockbridge Blog to highlight the community that educated and guided her. She is now studying Economics at Hillsdale College, where she’s a captain of the sailing team and an editor of the Hillsdale Blog.
Great words, Emily! Thanks for your thoughtful exhortation.
You are all inspiring, my beautiful Granddaughter.