Posts Tagged debate
I grew up in a small rural town in the Sierra foothills. When I entered our local high school (1,000 students), there was no debate team — so I decided to create one. I set up meetings with our school principal and the county superintendent of schools, who both agreed to let me start a school team. After weeks of phone calls and paperwork, I was given a budget and told to find an adult coach who would take responsibility for the team. I must have been rejected by most of the school faculty before finding a willing coach, who also happened to be one of my favorite teachers in the school. The debate team is now in its second year and I am captain (I’m 17). We plan on competing in at least 9 regional meets this season, and hopefully do well enough to advance to state and national qualifiers.
In my last two years of high school, I have immersed myself in every opportunity to practice the art of public speaking. Each year, I have attended an intensive law camp; one summer at Stanford and another summer at Columbia. My peers voted me best attorney at Stanford camp! I was also fortunate to attend Renaissance Weekend with my parents in Charleston SC. This gave me many opportunities to speak extemporaneously on a number of topics and engage with fascinating people. I’ve also participated in our county Teen Court program, acting as both defense and prosecuting attorney in real juvenile court trials presided over by a Superior Court judge. But perhaps my favorite experience has been a lengthy summer internship in the office of California Senator Ted Gaines. One of my responsibilities was researching public policy (urban redevelopment, etc.) and presenting my work to staff — an incredible opportunity. I have also been invited as one of 50 student leaders, and possibly the only high school student, to participate in the 2013 Intersection Event at Google in Mountain View.
UPDATE: I was accepted to USC! I’m planning on a new blended major called “Politics, Philosophy, and Law“, and participating on the USC-Annenberg Debate Team.
I’ve shared some of my experiences here to draw a contrast with competitive debate. I recognize that most social issues are not “black and white” where one side wins, and one side must lose. Yet this is the nature of academic debate. A participant either wins or loses, like a sporting event. There is no middle ground and no gray area. I have more to say about this on the Debate vs. Dialogue page. I know that many politicians participated on their school debate teams. Maybe this is one reason why politics is so polarized and unable to find compromise — politicians are simply products of their academic training. Instead of acknowledging gray areas and seeking common ground, politics seems more about winners and losers. This is not only unhealthy, it might even be called sociopathic — a national emergency. Please read my ideas for moving competitive debate into new forms of competitive dialogue.