Team Geiser Up 2-0 in IB History Debates, Stary Looks to Rebound


Team Geiser celebrating their first debate win. (Featuring a sheet cake with Greg Geiser’s face on it.)

Nick Bumgardner, Editor-in-Chief, Online Tritonian

A rivalry is brewing in the senior class.

Starting in November, Mr. Greg Geiser and Mr. Steve Stary’s IB HL History classes have been locked in a fierce series of inter-class history debates.

The four-part debate series is coordinated by Geiser and Stary and its topics are centered around WWII and the Cold War–the major points of emphasis in HL History’s second year.

Using debates as a tool in the classroom is nothing new, with Geiser incorporating an in-class debate annually.

What is new, though, is the move to pit both classes against each other in a series of debates.

Given the rare opportunity of having two different IB History classes during the same hour of the day, Stary challenged Geiser’s class to compete.

“I see the benefit of this debate series as giving an incentive for each class to really focus on their topics. We’re supposed to be studying these topics in depth for the IB exams anyway, but the element of competition hopefully inspires the students to get into it from all angles,” Stary explained.

“Plus, it’s something different, and fun, to break up the routine,” he added.

For both teachers, organizing the debates and watching their classes compete has been a rewarding experience.

“…Working with Mr. Stary has been great. I’m a great admirer of his historical knowledge, teaching skill, and experience. He’s always been very supportive of me as I learn the content and craft of teaching history,” Geiser said.

In fact, these two are no strangers to working together, having shared a homeroom when Geiser started teaching nine years ago.

“. . .We connected back then, and he’s been a good friend ever since.  I also consider him one of my mentors and it’s great to work with a mentor,” Geiser explained.

The debate topics, as selected by Geiser and Stary, are “the US’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the causes of the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Space Race,” in that order.

The two classes alternate “home-room advantage” by each hosting two debates, and as hosts, get to pick which side of the topic to defend.

Winners for each debate are selected by a jury panel of IB juniors and one staff member, who serves as the moderator.

“Student engagement has been very high with this format, especially so this year. With student engagement comes learning, which is the overall goal,” Geiser said.

The first debate was held in Geiser’s room in November and saw his class claim “the US was not justified in its decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan.”

Both classes went toe-to-toe for 33 minutes, and after a hung-jury verdict, IB Coordinator Mr. Matthew Schultz cast the deciding vote: a victory for Geiser’s class.

The second debate, this time hosted by Stary, happened Wednesday.

Instead of both classes competing against each other in-full, they each created smaller, six-person teams to represent themselves.

Geiser’s team, dubbed “The Nick Team,” was represented by Nick Bumgardner, Nick Massabni, Nick Scott, Nicki Waystedt, Joey Bonadonna and Adam Vogel.

Stary’s team was represented by Abby Elfner, Molly Kukiela, Jacob Limoni, Lucia Bosco, Hunter Buschke, and Sarah Hardwick, and claimed “the US was to blame for causing the Cold War.”

In the end, the jury sided with Geiser’s team again, extending their lead to 2-0.

Their lead may have led to a fair amount of sparring outside the classroom, but more importantly, the debates have helped both classes refine their research and argumentation skills.

“…My students have worked together cooperatively. Every student has strengths and talents to bring to the table. I feel like my class is valuing and utilizing every student’s skills, and it takes a lot of different skills, and everyone’s effort, to make a successful debate effort.  ‘Barnacles’ are not tolerated in my class,” Geiser said.

“I’m very proud of how civil and sportsmanlike all the students in both classes have been…They are fierce competitors; but we are all Tritons and stewards of history, and we all have a lot to learn from history,” he continued.

While it’s impossible to know what’s in store for the last two debates, one thing is certain: the rivalry won’t be going away anytime soon.