If you were to ask my parents, they would have diagnosed me with a strong case of senioritis this year. For those of you blessed to not know the meaning of this term, senioritis refers to when students nearing graduation experience a precipitous drop in motivation towards their academic studies. Symptoms may include: dropping 2 AP exams, a decline in grade performance, and a sudden desire to embark on world travel. At least, that’s what I assume it’s like for other seniors?!
But being a senior this past year has caused me to reflect on Speech and Debate and what it has meant to me over these past 6 years. I’ve come to a richer realization that the real value of Speech and Debate is what happens outside this journey, not what happens in it (for those of you taking notes, this is my thesis). I believe that Speech and Debate is one of many things in life we won’t fully appreciate until later.
- For example, faith in Christ is a living hope that won’t be fully realized until we are in heaven.
- Our education is comprised of years of tests and toil for character and knowledge we reap as adults.
- And I won’t fully appreciate my parents’ cooking until I’m at college, subsisting on eggs and cereal. Though to be fair: I can cook some beautiful scrambled eggs.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Speech and Debate a lot. But I think I will appreciate it even MORE when we use the skills we have gained in the “real world.” For example, the forensic clap. I was recently at another event, and a lady was announcing the results, with long applause for each team. I was thinking “What an inefficient use of time” and desperately wanted to instruct them in the way of the forensic clap. That’s definitely a skill we should transfer.
I still remember my first debate round. I was a cocky novice with too much confidence for my own good. My family had already been in Speech and Debate for a couple of years, I was a master timer, and my partner and I did well in our club’s practice tournament. Then came our first tournament, the very first round we went affirmative against one of the best teams in the league. They argued every single stock issue and several disadvantages; and oh, a counterplan to top if off. It was a good reality check, and one of many failures that taught me more than success ever did. I look back at that tournament fondly because our club had fun “mock” debates in the lounges about installing “Biometric Presidential cake warmers”…..It was hilarious and dumb…. Still with a better rhetoric than some of my speeches.
At another tournament my novice year, we were against a good team with an even better case, and we had no good arguments. I always ran a DA, but since we didn’t have any good ones, I became desperate and said that their plan is a: “violation of federal law”. With the resolution of “reforming federal election law”, that’s exactly what the affirmative team should be doing. I felt ridiculously silly, and the ballot reflected that.
Needless to say, I did not live up to my self-projected image as a novice. Yet failures like these are exactly what makes the Speech and Debate experience NOT a failure, but a success. If we truly believed the real value of Speech and Debate consists only in what happens inside of Speech and Debate, then any mistake could be grounds for despair because it’s all a waste of time. But as a senior who’s now looking forward, I’ve realized the real value of Speech and Debate lies in what happens next, after we graduate, when we put these skills and character development into use.
Last summer, I was in Amman, Jordan on a study-abroad program. And it was a wonderful experience. It was fun to play soccer with Muhammad, a neighborhood boy, in the middle of the street, defying angry taxi drivers. It was fun to visit Petra and Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. It was fun to roam the streets of Amman and eat Kanafeh, a sweet, syrupy, cheesy dessert, from angels disguised as street vendors. Truly a taste of heaven.
But the experience was also…..interesting, for lack of a better word, not only because it was a completely new country and culture, but also because it was the first time I spent such a long period of time away from home surrounded by people who are not Christians. And I’m not just referring to the people of Amman, but also the American students who I spent most of the day with. Being surrounded by people who didn’t share my values as a Christian was sometimes very depressing and isolating.
For example, one day, when we were all on the bus, one American student was talking about how he competed in public school debate, and was openly bragging about how he fabricated evidence. The fact that a public school debater fabricates evidence wasn’t surprising, the fact that he openly bragged about it surprised me – so I asked him “isn’t that unethical?” He looked at me with spite, and responded, “Haven’t you read Friedrich Nietzsche? God doesn’t exist.” The way he said was matter-of-factly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, was so infuriating. I happened to study Nietzsche the past school year, and believe me, I very much wanted to give him a piece of my mind on why Nietzsche is one of the crappiest philosophers ever. But alas, he wasn’t open to discussion. This was a good wakeup call to what life is like outside the Speech and Debate and homeschool world.
I mean, Speech and Debate truly is unique. A few years ago, I was at a tournament, when the unthinkable happened, a tragedy to make Shakespeare jealous: I lost my tie clip. As a joke, I replaced it with a clothespin. I wore it in an impromptu speech. Some of my friends that it was bold and edgy, and I felt like a bad boy. You know you’re a debater when you think that wearing a clothespin instead of a tie clip counts as edgy.
There’s a Japanese word called Mono No Aware. Mono No Aware — forgive my less-than-sublime pronunciation — refers to a bittersweet sadness that comes from sensitivity to transience, an awareness of the fleeting nature of things… such as certain experiences like tournaments, periods of life like growing up or parenting, the taste of delicious food like chicken tikka. To quote one Speech and Debate alum, now a successful entrepreneur, reminiscing about his homeschooling journey: “The freedom to design my own schedule was priceless. The freedom to do homework in my pajamas was, as I quickly found out, overrated.” Savor your Speech and Debate journey, whether this year is your first, last, or both, and savor your years of homeschooling, with the confidence that God is working in you to work for His glory.