Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Debate

Dave Branch ("Twig") and I started the debate club in my high school. There had never been a debate team in Milton [at least for many years] and our adviser didn't have a clue. In our first debate all our speeches were entirely written out. We soon learned better with a little tutoring from experienced and generous debaters from  Whitewater High School. The debate topic, as best I can recall, was whether Medicare should be adopted. That was in 1962. This account in a recent book seems to indicate that some things may not have changed very much:
In the world of high-school debate, the nerd can be king. A face full of pimples, a black three-piece suit and an encyclopedic knowledge of this week's Economist might be more than enough to condemn a 15-year-old to a lonely existence in the school cafeteria, but if combined with a quick mind and a sharp tongue those are the trappings of royalty at a high-school debate tournament. Belonging to the debate team even provides a certain refuge in the rough-and-tumble of high school itself.

"Debaters are not, cannot be cool. Even at an elite, academically competitive school, the most popular kids are never debaters," says Mark Oppenheimer in "Wisenheimer," the cheerfully immodest account of a young smart aleck who escaped social ostracizing for his lack of cool by joining others of his kind on the debate team. ....
The picture is from the Debate Club page in my Junior yearbook. I'm on the right with my debate partner Dave Branch.

Book review: Wisenheimer - WSJ.com