The perfect way to end a four-year debate partnership – winning the state championships 

Photo courtesy of Debbie Dunn. Malena Bloom, left, and Milo Tisdale, right.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Dunn. Malena Bloom, left, and Milo Tisdale, right.

Malena Bloom and Milo Tisdale have known each other since the fourth grade.  

In the eighth grade, they became debate partners at Global Prep Academy.  

Four years later, Bloom and Tisdale made their way to the California High School Speech Association state championships and came home as state champions in the parliamentary debate category.  

“I could coach debate another 20 years and never have another state champion as it takes really special students to advance that far against every school in the state, public and private,” said Sarah Ford, their debate coach.  

Parliamentary debate is a form of debate that presents a unique topic each time with only a short amount of time to prepare for the debate.  

Typically debate members are presented the topic, have 20 minutes to prepare an argument and then debate in a 40-minute setting.  

When Bloom and Tisdale began their debate journey, this was the type of debate they were introduced into. Ever since, they haven’t strayed from this type of debate or their partnership.  

“I personally liked that it’s limited prep because that means that I don’t have to spend my weekends and time prepping a case,” said Tisdale. “I also like parliamentary debate because I honestly think it’s probably the most applicable for real-world skills because when you get into an argument with the person in real life, you don’t have two weeks to prepare your case. You have to think about like the quick arguments and those logical connections.” 

“Other kinds of debate are really valuable, but a lot of times they kind of teach you the skill of researching rather than the skill of arguing,” said Bloom. “That’s kind of what we enjoyed about it. We’re not super formal as debaters and parley’s (parliamentary) the most excusable way to do that.” 

During the duo’s sophomore year, they attended debate tournaments almost every other week over Zoom.   

“We were putting in so much work,” said Bloom.  

However, in her junior year, Bloom stepped into a bigger role as the debate captain of Valencia High School’s debate team.  

“I think teaching is a great way to learn,” said Bloom. “I really love teaching and that was something I realized from debate. I would not have figured that out when I was in eighth grade.” 

The duo competed less that year, but gained back their traction in their senior year.  

They competed in three debate competitions to qualify for the 2023 CHSSA state championship. 

On April 21 they made their way down to Carlsbad High School and began their three-day-long competition.  

They debated topics such as “should South American nations of MERCOSUR pull out of the trade agreement with the EU,” “vacancy taxes for landlords,” “is open enrollment good or bad in schools,” “should Native American water rights should be valued over agriculture” and even a topic written by Chat GPT on whether artificial intelligence will do more harm than good.   

“What has made us very successful in debate is the fact that we are able to come up with those creative arguments that a lot of people can’t think of,” said Tisdale, “so our opponents aren’t really prepared to really address it. But they’re also good arguments in terms of, they’re very strong and they have a lot of like good framework to them.” 

“A lot of the arguments that Malena will come up with are different than mine, but they’re both strong. Then we get different perspectives. That kind of strengthens the overall strength of the case.” 

The duo competed in four preliminary rounds and four elimination rounds (the octos debate, quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals). 

What they hadn’t known at the time was they went undefeated in ballots (each judge’s vote for the winner of the debate) throughout all of their preliminary rounds.  

“We’re just very much on the same page a lot of the time,” said Bloom. “Milo and I met in fourth grade, so we’ve been friends for a while.” 

Their skills carried their undefeated ballot streak through the octos debate and quarterfinals.  

After three hours of sitting on Carlsbad High School’s gym floor, Bloom and Tisdale were announced as the state champions in the parliamentary debate category.  

They only lost one ballot in the semifinals and one in finals, meaning they only didn’t win the opinions of two out of the approximately 24 judges that weekend.  

“It was weird,” said Bloom about winning. “We’ve actually never won a tournament. Yes, it’s the first one we’ve ever won.” 

Two trophies in hand, Bloom and Tisdale are now on their way to things other than debate.  

Bloom will be studying astrophysics at UCLA. Tisdale will be attending Oregon State University to study botany, horticulture and food science and technology.  

The debate skills that they have learned over four years are something the duo much appreciate and plan to carry on into their selected fields.  

“It gave me the confidence to be a competent speaker, a competent arguer,” said Tisdale. “It gave me the skills of quickly learning how to write a plan, text, all of the bases and stuff that you need to present, so I think the debate really has set me up with a lot of good skills for what I want to do in my future.” 

“If you want to try it out, try to find a team, you know, give it a chance. Public speaking is one of the most important skills, even if you don’t want to compete,” Tisdale added. “Just having the academic exercise of coming up with the arguments, building the confidence to speak in front of people, building the confidence to say your opinion, say your stance and support it, I think is a skill that everyone really can benefit from.” 

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