My Debate Experience #JusJoJan

One of the requirements for freshmen at St. Ignatius College Prep, where I spent my first year in high school, was a semester of speech. Since the tendency of teenaged boys is to grunt in response to questions, they wanted to, in the words of Mr. Woynerowski (the speech teacher), "learn guys how to talk good." Each semester, half of the freshmen took speech, the other half took typing.

After the first speech, I realized that I kind of liked getting up in front of people and talking, and was encouraged to join the debate team by Mr. W, Mr. Dolan (a Jesuit scholastic who was also my Theology teacher), and my mother. One afternoon a week, we would stay after school and hone our skills. My partner was Ed, more because we were the last two guys to show up at the first meeting than anything. After the first debate meet, from which Ed and I emerged 0-2, it was pretty obvious that Ed and I were mismatched, because we argued with each other more than with our opponents. We spoke with Mr. Dolan, who listened and told us that we were the last two guys on the team and had better learn to work with each other.

One day, we were up against a team that was arguling a "competitive advantage" case, which was where, rather than proposing a solution to the problem, they simply talked about why it was better than the status quo, which we were defending. Needless to say, Ed was like a dog with a bone, demanding to know what their solution was, after which they would get up and blithely inform us that they didn’t have one, because they didn’t need one. We lost that one, big.

Another one we lost big was one where I got up in my rebuttal time and started it by saying "that is, without a doubt, the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard." That got back to Mr. Dolan, who promptly booted me from the team.

Had I known that was all I needed to do, I’d’ve done it sooner.

14 thoughts on “My Debate Experience #JusJoJan

  1. Lucky me never on a debate team! I took speech when I was in college until my speech professor was fired for various reasons. Never had to finish the class and got credit for it. Life was good!

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  2. I did debates at conferences, at first it was just a, excuse me, shitfest. I don’t know any other way to describe it…it was horrible and got out of control. Later they smartened up and made sure the people who would disrupt it, couldn’t. I have to say, I think I did quite well and would win the debates….if I do say so myself.

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  3. My speech/debate coach (yep, I was on the team), my French teacher, my civics teacher, and my drama coach were the reasons I made it through the horrid years of high school. I made speech tournament finals pretty often, and have a few trophies in a box somewhere. Thank you for the memories.

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      1. Yep. I didn’t even keep my yearbooks. No desire to revisit those days. My 40-year reunion is this year and, as with all the others, I will not be attending. Anyone from high school with whom I still wish to speak is part of my life already.

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