Westlake High School: Debate

Debate, debate, debate. I love debate. Okay, ready for a silly thing I did in high school. I joined debate and registered for debate classes, because there was an amazingly cool way smart girl who was the captain of the debate team. I was such of a looser. I chickened out never getting to know her, but I loved debate class.

The class today was great. The debate teacher had the captain of the debate team teach the class. The kid was awesome. He has total presence and had the capacity to go non-stop for an hour and a half. Not only that, he could use his wit and intelligence to keep the hecklers in-line with the snap of his tongue. I was just there because the state requires an adult to be present.

He went over the different types of debate and how to deliver canned arguments. I only stepped in to offer a few tips and to define, explain and provide history for the word “philosophy” (you’re right, a short explanation never does it for philosophy, but if they wanted more I would have insisted they ignore philosophy unless deep thoughts about burger-flipping or construction-flagging are a life-long interest).

I also got to go over the idea of “terrorist” with them. The Lincoln-Douglas topic this year is (approximately): “Resolved: the United States ought to provide constitutional guarantees to terrorists apprehended and detained outside our national borders.” Most of their arguments focused on “ought” where I thought the more unusual argument would be focused on “terrorist.” We went back and forth in each class, but it is evident the students are more familiar with the cliched idea of “terrorist” instead of how terrorists label themselves.

Fun fun. I didn’t go too far though. All debate and debaters end in entropy and dissolve into ennui just as the sophists themselves did. I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and the great fun of high-school debate. Note: we were focused on the debate they must perform, not the fake-crap/spectacle happening tonight between President O and Mitt R. Thank goodness none of them asked.

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2 thoughts on “Westlake High School: Debate

  1. Oh this brings back memories… Not so much debates and debating But for 4 years in the mid 1970’s I taught in a school called Westlakes High School here in South Australia. It had a population of just under a 1,000 students from 19 different nationalities and mostly lower middle to low economic backgrounds which provided a number of difficulties trying to achieve educational outcomes. The school shut down in the late 80’s due to dropping enrollments. Thanks for reminding me Aaron as I did enjoy teaching there and remember the school with some fondness.

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