My Debate Career Is Over
I started debate in 8th grade, but my mom was actually the one who pushed me to join. I wanted to quit before freshman year but I was convinced by one of my friends to stay a little longer; ironically, she quit before her sophomore year, but I’m still here.
When you’re approaching the end of your high school debate career…
For the longest time, I practiced tennis year-round, with private lessons and tournaments on the weekends. When I was in middle school, I tried out for our school’s tennis team, twice. Not once did I make it. I have long since quit not just tennis, but sports in general.
From the start of sixth grade to my junior year in high school, I tried out for All-State, a state-wide violin competition. Every summer, I dedicated my practices to scales, etudes, and one solo piece that I painstakingly perfected for months. I went to private lessons, but I never got past the second round of auditions.
Of course, I played in other out-of-school orchestras, but I eventually stopped trying for All-State, collapsing down to my school’s orchestra, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I know that around this time of year, many debaters will be nearing the end of their high school career. We’re all different; some of us want to finish the semester strong and go out with a bang, and some have already fizzled out of the activity. Continue reading
This Kid I Know: Marc
Oh Marc! I can’t believe he’s turning 19 today, while I have yet to turn 18. He certainly has the capacity to act his age, though I would dispute the claim that he always acts it.
Like most guys I know, he’s changed a great deal since I first met him in maybe 6th grade. His face has filled in but simultaneously hollowed out. His voice has certainly gotten deeper, and yet there are still the best aspects of young Marc peeking through. Continue reading
My Weekend in Chicago – A Saga
Yummy breakfast with one of my favorite people, on a chill morning.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a long time; for the past few days, I’ve been in Illinois for a variety of debate tournaments, and today we are going to talk about my experience there.
First, I went to a tournament where I did not have to debate, which was totally unprecedented. I rarely go to tournaments without the intention of spending 8+ hours everyday immersed in technical and high speed debates. This time, I was along for the ride of a bunch of debaters to help coach younger kids and judge novice debates.
It was a great experience because this was a huge tournament; thus, many of my friends around the country were attending, but I didn’t have anxiety because I didn’t have to debate! I got to hang out with a bunch of my greatest friends. I also had the opportunity to sit in on very high quality debates, which helped me prepare for a separate tournament that I was going to further in the week (I’ll get to that later).
Who Are These “Something Compliments” Groups?
In the debate community recently, an anonymous soul started a Facebook account dedicated to posting compliments about people in the debate community (Debate Compliments). The goal was simple: to spread joy to the debate community. Within hours, the person (or should I say, two people?) had acquired over one hundred Facebook friends. Now, they have almost 700. It seemed as though every five minutes, gracious tributes to fellow debaters would show up in my newsfeed. The posts would vary in content. Some people would shout out a whole team (as in, people from one school), and some would send in inside jokes that would be posted. Most, however, are recognizing members of the debate community from both the national circuit and local circuits for traits that are both related and entirely unrelated to their debating skills. People are acknowledged based on their personalities and their achievements of the season. So, the creators say: “if there is something nice you have to say about someone but don’t feel comfortable saying it to their face, inbox away.”
The trend has spread! Less than a day ago, two mysterious individuals at our school started a Facebook account with the same objective, of showing appreciation for the members of our community (Westminster Compliments). Refresh your newsfeed every couple of minutes, and you will see posts with multiple likes, representing the mutual agreement of opinion. At this very moment, Westminster Compliments has 174 friends. WOW!
Of course, everyone has a hunch about who the creators are. However, all of these guesses are only guesses until someone decides to step up and provide proof that they started either Facebook account. I doubt someone will though. If their intentions are genuine, anonymity is crucial to maintain the theme of gracious appreciation for individuals without the annoyance of drama or the hassle of judgment.
The way I see it, the creators of these Facebook accounts are reverse Gossip Girls. Or rather, after seeing the very last episode of the series, perhaps they are just Gossip Girls, since Dan Humphrey ended up using his social power for good.
These accounts all possess the Gossip Girl effect. No one knows who Gossip Girl/Debate Compliments/Westminster Compliments is. And yet people send in their “tips”. Of course, the difference is that Gossip Girl would post reliable and credible gossip, while these other two accounts simply aim to bring happiness to two different communities through compliments. And yet, who knows what the potential implications of these social phenomena could be? Could the creators use their powers for evil instead of good? And if they did, would the public follow along and send in statements that are not compliments?
From watching from the sidelines as my Facebook friends have eagerly latched onto this new social trend, all I can conclude is that there have only been benefits. I’ve learned things about people that I’ve met that I probably wouldn’t expect. I’ve found out wonderful things about people that I’ve never met.
Many questions remain. Is the popularity of the Something Compliments accounts fleeting? Is this whole thing just a fad? A joke? Or will it become a trend that spreads nationwide?
Hypothetically, if other “Something Compliments” accounts were created, who knows what sort of effects it could have? Could it possibly alleviate bullying? Or would bullies just create “Something Insults” to counter to positive effects?
It could change the way social media functions. Different from Formspring, this group would most likely be operated by someone within the community. That way, it would have a more personalized aspect; perhaps followers and supporters would be more likely to accept, and not immediately judge the effects of such a group.
Whoever you are, I hope you use your powers for good, and not for evil. Keep on doing what you’re doing. I won’t pester you anymore about the subject. Just know that most of the people in either community (whether it debate or school) greatly appreciate what you’re doing. It’s not like everyone has the time to copy and paste messages into status boxes! Even if it were the job of two operators.
My Top 7 Most Viewed Blog Posts, and My Hypotheses for Why
This one is popular because it’s short and funny! There’s a picture of a cute duck, and most of the viewers found this through a writing challenge that I did online, in which I left a link back to my blog. Not much more to say about this post, there’s not really an underlying meaning, except I suppose to question the legitimacy of eggs, but I don’t mind eating eggs and I’m not really disgusted about where it comes from, but hey, that’s just me.
This guest post finally addresses one of the biggest themes that blogs rant about, that I have yet to acknowledge: love. Specifically, teenage love. I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it because I know I’ll get lots of questions and pesterings from the people that know me personally, so I suppose for now the only time you’ll hear about love on this blog is when anonymous people submit their writing to me. Perhaps later, I’ll feel confident enough to state my opinion on teenage love, but for now, I think I’ll refrain from it.
This post is popular because I advertise it a lot. I slip it into a lot of other posts whenever writing is relevant, and that’s one of the best methods to get more hits on your blog. I think my teachers probably appreciate this one the most because it shows that I’ve learned something from my eleven years of English class. I made this one general and applicable to anyone on purpose; I knew people would be able to relate to it, and I guess that shows, through the amount of times it has been read.
I know why this one is so popular. For starters, it is the first “This Kid I Know” post I wrote, so no one was expecting me to be so straight up about the people that I know and respect. Secondly, I posted this on his Facebook wall on his birthday, so that definitely generated a lot of views. Perhaps Holmes liked the post so much that he shared it with a lot of friends? I haven’t asked, so I guess I’ll never know for sure. The post was short, sweet, and to the point. I know that high school kids definitely appreciate this kind of post. And they’re eager to find out who exactly this Holmes kid is. (He’s world-famous, by the way.)
Perhaps this one was pretty popular because I wrote it in a different style than I normally do. It was unconventional for me; it was more of a shot at creative writing. I wanted to test and exercise the way I could depict details, so that the reader could imagine themselves in my closet through my words. This post was a work in progress for MONTHS but one night I finally finished it after sitting in my closet for an hour or two, rifling through my special box.
I’m genuinely surprised that this wasn’t #1! Whenever I find new blogs, I always look at their About page to find out whether or not we have anything in common, and whether or not I think I’d be interested in reading their blog. An About page is basically a mini autobiography in which the writer can write anything they want, in whatever form they want to. This is their moment to hook in potential loyal followers by preaching to them what exactly it is that they write about, and why exactly the follower should make like a follower, and…follow. I edit this page a lot because I always want to get the best message across to people who stumble upon my blog.
I suppose this one has been the most popular because I posted the links on my Gchat account, and on my Facebook page, and a great portion of my friends on both social networking sites ARE debaters, so when they saw a post about something that was relevant to them, they just had to read it. This post was one of the first I had planned to write, but I didn’t get around to actually writing it until a few weeks later. At that point, we were a little ways into the debate season, and so I would be able to pull examples and concepts from the tournaments that I’d gone to for inspiration to write about in my post, as well as the seven weeks of debate camp I also attended over the summer. I think this post was popular because it’s policy debate is something that I genuinely care about, but also because debaters have a tendency to link things to each other in a flash, so perhaps it traveled quickly?
Post inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge at Daily Post, here.
Welcome to the Squad Room.
When I was in junior high, I heard from my cousin (who had many debater friends) about the high school debaters that all went to the “squad room” during their free time to do work and chill and hang out and make friends. Wow, was that a misnomer. All my junior high life I had imagined the “squad room” to be a room with padded walls and cushioned floors, sort of like a wrestling room. I expected there to be tubs of evidence in neatly organized files being highlighted with actual highlighters. But I was young, and times have changed since then. I was wrong.
The squad room at our school is located near the edge of campus, in a basement of a building infamous for its strange odor. But I found that after visiting the squad room a couple of times, I was able to overcome the stench of who-knows-what. There are a couple of couches, tables and chairs to sit on, enticing you to sit and talk to your friends. Awards from previous tournaments hang on the wall, as if to remind us that we are currently occupying the space of past debaters that have long moved onto college, champions of big tournaments that set examples for younger members of the squad. Glancing at the walls will send you a subtler signal that there’s always a reason to continue working hard.
A whiteboard with a single purple Expo marker hangs on the wall, filled with all sorts of messages, whether from the debaters ourselves, or from the friendly, spirited teacher who goes around to every classroom, writing positive quotes in a quote bubble in the corner of every whiteboard.
Furthermore, it’s more or less a no-judging zone, or a safe haven, of sorts. Sure, we’re not all best friends that hold prayer sessions for each other and we don’t all share common interests and beliefs, but that just makes us more diverse and interesting altogether. We can talk about the activity that we all love without the judging eyes of our peers (that assume that debate is merely conversing about Congress) boring into the back of our heads. We’ve all been exposed to radical, philosophical literature, so we’re less likely to arbitrarily assume. It’s like in the Perks of Being a Wallflower, when Charlie and friends go to Bob’s place to be who they actually are, to express their true nature. Perhaps I’m overstating the effect of such a setting to have on a group of people, but I still like to think optimistically about our “dwelling.”
It’s not perfect. As previously mentioned, it sometimes smells weird. Lots of people don’t clean up after themselves; there’s often sticky juice on the floor and crumbs on the tables, and loose-leaf paper and textbooks everywhere, but I don’t really mind it that much. Of course, people don’t always get along and drama happens, but in general, we’re a well-functioning unit. Congregations in the squad room represent “the mixing of all grades for the pursuit of a common goal,” as a friend has so eloquently described. Wonderful relationships are formed between seniors and freshmen, between juniors and sophomores, as help and advice on topics not entirely limited to debate is exchanged.
Practice debates take place; this is the setting where people can improve their debating skills the most. Here, there is interaction between people of all levels. Information is transferred between the students themselves, which I find to be one of the best communicative aspects of the activity.
Sometimes, I will walk down the hall where the squad room is located and hear the music from three classrooms away. We were fortunate enough that someone had left a pair of good quality speakers in our humble sanctuary. Frequently, Kanye’s “Mercy” blares out of the room and annoys the class next door, but most times, we’re undisturbed, surrounded by the booms of the deep, resonating bass.
But this post is not just about our squad room. It’s not solely about the squad rooms in other debate schools either. We all have a squad room of our own. For whatever extracurricular or hobby that we enjoy, there’s a place where people with similar interests can gather and express their appreciation for said extracurricular or hobby. In my experience, I find the squad room at our school to be an overall wonderful place to make friends and learn random things. I can listen to strange, unfamiliar music or just do homework in a free period. I can watch Youtube videos and read blog posts, and I can ask questions and check up on people that I would normally not see during the day.
Do you have an abode, or a sanctuary where you can hang out with people with shared interests? Let me know! :)
Thanks to a friend for the writing prompt!
What It Means to Debate
To debate is to participate in one of the most beneficial activities that young people could ever participate in. We, the future generation of our country, will be comprised of the professional football players and cheerleaders, the innovative scientists, the actors, the playwrights, the occasional Broadway performer, the cosmetic surgeon, the teacher, the soccer coach, and the list could go on and on. But imperative to the future generation are the politicians, presidents, congress people, and even the educated voter that has acquired such knowledge from something such as…policy debate.
Intro to Debate
Policy debate is a fast paced, excruciatingly intense activity that teaches many different skills. As technology becomes increasingly common in our everyday lives, computers, flash drives, and whatnot have transformed the style of debate into something contemporary and high tech. Debaters talk at high speed, the best speaking as rapidly at 400 words per minute (while the average person manages about 100 WPM). My sister, who has never seen a policy debate in her life, tells me that when I ‘spread,’ (speed read) I sound unreasonably mad. I tell her half-jokingly that it’s more passion than anger.
Before I joined our debate club, I was expecting to walk into a room full of smart, intellectual geeks that talked about politics. In some sense, I was correct. But there’s so much more to the debate community! They are passionate people; I was constantly in awe to hear people speak with such enthusiasm in their voice. Each year I have debated, I’ve learned so much about the topics that are chosen. Who would have thought that policy debate could have allowed me to know so much about military withdrawal, space development, and transportation infrastructure? I have a clear idea of how our economy functions, as well as what’s going on in world politics outside of the United States. I’ve become knowledgeable about presidential debates and various bills that go through Congress, and the effect it has on our country. Who would have thought that the entirety of my sophomore year I’d be arguing that it was imperative that the United States invest in an asteroid-detecting survey system because an asteroid collision was the greatest existential risk to humanity?
I’ve learned risk calculus. I can make better decisions, because I can weigh one choice against another. I LOVE IT. I USE THESE SKILLS IN MY CLASSES EACH AND EVERY DAY!
I love the debate community. I am very fortunate to go to a school that is very competitive and involved in policy debate. I’ve always been surrounded by wonderful role models that consistently inspired me to improve and learn more. I was shocked when junior year started and I started advancing to elimination rounds; younger students that had just started debate would ask me questions and look up to me, just like I used to admire the junior and senior debaters when I was a freshman.
But even greater is the relationship between schools. While most maintain secrecy about new strategies and files that are constantly updated between tournaments, debaters have consistently managed to maintain strong friendships. Despite the extremely (and I mean EXTREMELY) intense competition between schools and even within them, the community is able to stay tightly knit because of the inside jokes that no one else in our schools seems to understand. Whether it be about a funny rebuttal speech or an absurd argument test-driven to observe its effectiveness on a judge, non-debaters at my school swear that it sounds like we’re speaking a different language. In a way, it is a private, exclusive form of communication that few people can speak and write in. I’m constantly asked by my peers to “spread,” the same way that someone would ask me to speak a different language; it entertains and intrigues them.
I see this happen on a small scale: debaters that live within one state congregate at parties and have fun. I also observe the astounding relationships that are able to be maintained all over the country! Who would have thought that a high school kid living in Georgia would be able to create wonderful friendships with people from Kansas, Utah, Ohio, Illinois, California, or New Jersey? Perhaps it’s because we are all engrossed in our computers doing research, but we have also become accustomed to emailing, chatting, and video-calling each other. I’ve always feared the possibility of becoming socially awkward when being forced to speak face-to-face with people after spending so much time online, but I feel as though debaters are an exception to this phenomenon. We spend so much of our time eloquently persuading others why our point of view is correct that there isn’t much of a reason to worry.
Just like great relationships that emerge from sports or other extracurricular activities, debate friendships are made to last. From those of us that will grow up to be politicians, diplomats, or ambassadors, or even those that pursue another career but are educated in politics, we won’t look back at our debater days and remember “that one round where we won/lost against that one team on that one argument with that one judge;” chances are, we will remember fondly those who shared those special moments with us. Debaters tend to accept each other for who they are, continually learning new things from each other. It’s more than an extracurricular activity; other after-school activities cannot compare with the lessons we learn and the bonds that we form. It has become a way of life for so many people.
Education and Skill Set
Wow, am I a better public speaker or what? I’ve developed so much in public speaking through the years. My palms don’t sweat as much, my voice doesn’t shake as easily. I can give a final rebuttal with confidence in my tone, which really can set me apart to the judge, when he/she must decide which team was more persuasive.
Now, I’ll rant about the internet. One of the greatest benefits of policy debate is the information that accumulates in your brain over the years, all thanks to the World Wide Web. It’s free, unlimited information that obliterates many of the barriers that certain schools used to face when it came to doing research. While some people live in different regions where the judges can be drastically different, I’ve always remembered a very short but simple quote from Jarod Atchison: “On any given day, anyone can win.” The sole purpose of this activity is to convince the judge, not dispute the other team. When it comes down to it, the ultimate speech stems from all the confidence and knowledge you’ve acquired from camp, debate practices, and other debate rounds. I think that a good debater should be able to adapt to whatever the judge has ideologically engraved in their mind.
Disadvantages to Consider
On the other hand, whilst I love the activity with all my heart and soul, there are obvious disadvantages to pursuing such an activity. I can think of one major setback: the time commitment. Oh man, does this activity grant me so many sleepless nights! I finish my homework at 11 PM some nights, glance at the block, and mentally ask myself: Sleep, or debate work? The answer is the same every time: Debate, duh. If you want to be a good debater, you can’t expect to have the skills and information innately. I’m sure colleges will be taken back when a resume portrays four years of hardcore debate, but they probably wouldn’t expect you to provide much more in other extracurriculars if you were truly invested. Debate is the single most time-consuming activity you will ever know. Some people start at zero ground, knowing nothing about the topic. Some people might start at negative ground, disadvantaged by lack of funding, strange geographic funding, etc. But no matter where you start, there is ALWAYS the possibility of ending up at the same place as any other team, even the most prestigious team in the nation. The only thing standing in your way is the question: do you want it badly enough?
One last question to ask: Do you have the passion? If you’re doing debate simply for the opportunity to put it on your college apps, go sulk in a corner and rethink your decision. If you’re doing it because you don’t KNOW whether or not you have the passion, then I salute you! Whatever the future has in store, good luck. Whatever happens, happens. Being passionate about debate is crucial to bring you above and beyond. You can transform from this technical-debating robot that wins some debates by simply making more arguments than the other team into an emotionally wax-poetic lunatic that tugs on the judge’s heartstrings, allowing them to ponder the debate works. This is how to acquire the highest speaker points! This is how you earn your reputation in debate as being extremely persuasive.
This Kid I Know: Holmes
So, I know this kid. He went to debate camp with me. I thought he was pretty weird at first, to be honest. I’d never talked to him before and he hung out with different people than I did, but MAN THIS KID IS A STRAIGHT UP BALLER (don’t judge me for saying that). Top of my lab, cutting cards all day. I stalked his Spotify and subscribed to his “cut all the cards” playlist. I starred two of his songs and decided that the rest were just too hardcore for me. His music taste blew me away; I suppose he’s just much too cool for me.