Monday, March 24, 2014

Speech and Debate vs. School

My daughter just finished with her speech and debate season.  The District tournament was this past weekend, and overall she was happy with her performance. Proud dad moment:  She placed first in the state in Novice Lincoln and Douglas.  For me it was fun listening to her develop her arguments and seeing her work through various issues, and putting it all together.

This past season she switched to Lincoln and Douglas Debate.  Speech and Debate at her school is demanding.  It is a club activity that requires as much time as any sport.  Practices happen 2 and 3 nights a week and on Sundays.  More practices are added the closer you get to big tournaments.  All this extra work added to her plate, but she loves it.  She doesn't feel the same about school.  At the end of the second 9 weeks when grades came out, my daughter got her first F on a report card.  A 68 in Algebra 2. This grade leads to a call from her mother wanting to know what we should do?  All the normal stuff was placed on the table:  no cell phone, no social media, no TV, no more speech and debate.  Me being the more forward thinking liberal educator, thought none of this will really solve anything.  I definitely did not want to take away Speech and Debate.  To me it is the one activity she participates in that actually provide her with skills she will use in the future. With the end of the season she post on Facebook:  

"Waking up this morning and knowing that this debate season is over is probably one of the hardest things in the world. This year, I met so many incredible people and accomplished so many incredible things. I want to say a major thank you to all of my coaches and captains for believing in me, and to all of my teammates for helping me out and keeping a smile on my face, and to all the friends I had the privilege of meeting this year. As Mr. Dejesa would say, love is knowing you can count on someone, and I can honestly say that I love you all so much. Thank you for everything and I can't wait until next year"

I don't think we will see a post like this on Facebook at the end of the school year.

What is she getting from Speech and Debate she is not getting from school? Here are my thoughts.

  • Challenge:  The topics in a debate are not easy.  They require her to research, read, write, revise, and collaborate in order to be prepared.  Most of the work (not all) she is doing in school is recall memory work.  

  • Audience:n In debate her audience are the other debaters, judges, teammates, coaches, and volunteer parents.  This is a much larger than the audience of one (teacher) she has in school.

  • The ability to improve:  You debate a topic multiple times from pro and con sides.  You learn from those you compete against and improve your arguments based on rebuttals from the other debaters.  School work is usually one and done.  Do it once, turn it in to the teacher and get the grade.

  • Authentic work:  The debate topics are real problems.  Making a case for these topics has some real meaning in her life.  She is not completing a task just for a grade or an assignment.

Statue photo by josephleenovak

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