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Front Page » April 25, 2006 » Opinion » Debate to keep debate gets debated
Published 3,102 days ago

Debate to keep debate gets debated


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

While I sat back and listened to the discussions at the Carbon School Board meeting on Wednesday night, it took me back to my high school days just a little.

And when it did that, I had a hard time imagining a high school the size of Carbon not having a forensics squad to field against other teams from across the state.

In my school boy days, I spend all three years in high school, involved in one way or another with the forensics team. I was only a debater one year, but I did what they called extemporaneous speaking (extemp) and oratory for two years. I was also involved in legislative forum one year.

I have to say those experiences, along with the classes I took related to them, changed my life. It wasn't that I couldn't speak in front of people before I was involved, I had always done that. But I couldn't do it without copius notes. And a lack of confidence did me in many times.

For those who have never been involved in the forensics process, it may be hard to understand. But the fact is that when you get deeply involved in speech programs and the drive it takes to succeed, there is nothing like it in the world. I can't even name all the things that not only my forensics teacher, at Murray High (Sam Moore), taught me about solving problems, doing research and meeting deadlines, but what the competition did for me as a person. As Susan Polster, the colleges newpaper advisor pointed out during the board meeting, many of her best writers over the years have been debaters. That's because many of the same priorities and specifics of producing a coherent and organized argument also apply to writing good editorial and specifics of producing a coherent and organized argument also apply to writing good editorial stories.

Forensics also teaches one to roll with the punches, an attribute that applie to almost every business I have ever been involved in. I remember my first go at extemp was during a meet at Weber State when I was a sophomore. In extemp a person who participates is supposed to be well read, so I spent weeks before the first meet reading dozens and dozens of magazines like Newsweek and Time, trying to bone up on all kinds of topics. That's because those that direct these meets, it seems, try to make the speaking topics as obscure as possible. Once at the meet contestants are handed a subject on which to speak 15 minutes before they have to present it before one or more judges. In those days (almost 40 years ago) there was no wireless internet that I could connect to to get information on subjects. To show you how that meet impacted me, I can still remember the topic in that first round that day; "Review the role of Japanese women in that country's society today."

I had never read a thing about it in all my studies and I was at a total loss. In the 15 minutes I had I tried desperately to find any information I could in the magazines we had brought along, but alas there was nothing to be found. And I knew literally nothing about Japanese society in the 1960's, so I used some history knowledge and tried to come up with something that would work. It didn't; I stunk up the place when I did my presentation.

Nonetheless, it taught me that the adage I had learned in my little time with the Boy Scouts. "Be prepared" was more than just words.

The next year, learning from that painful lesson, I took third place in extemp at the same meet. By then I knew what those two little words really meant.

During the school board meeting last Wednesday there were a lot of great speakers; in fact I didn't hear one who was not better than I. And the interesting thing was, despite all the letters and seeming animosity about the possible discontinuance of the program, everyone in the room found out that no one really wanted to end it. Instead I think everyone realized that the revitalization of the forensics classes at Carbon depends on the community and those that support programs at the high school.

The problem however remains, and it must be solved quickly. Getting a qualified, ambitious and committed forensics teacher to take over the program must be the first move. But once that is accomplished, those interested in this program cannot expect he or she to do it all. A forensic coachs weekends are not his own; meets abound and to be good, teams must go to a lot of them. Sometimes that means leaving on Friday night, and not returning home until late Sunday, with classes to teach on Monday.

It's not easy work, and the pay isn't great either. But it has its rewards, most of them intrinsic.

Let's hope the right person shows up to lead this program soon.


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April 25, 2006
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