Sunday, December 09, 2012

Judgement Day

I dove back into the world of state high school debate and elocution yesterday.  I paused in route to Ridgefield High, Washington State, to take a picture of my odometer going from 1999999 to 2000000.

I judged a public form about raising taxes versus cutting spending, and an interpretive reading contest.  Then I judged several spar sessions, where the topics are purposefully superficial -- it's the form and delivery that matter more.  "Wiley Coyote > Roadrunner" "Royalty > Celebrities", "mechanical pencil > ordinary #2 pencil", "email > snailmail", "football > soccer", "Star Wars > Star Trek", "broccoli > carrots".  These would be the affirmative "is better than" resolutions.  The Neg side takes the opposite view.

Spar:  AFF chooses from two resolutions:

One minute prep
AFF speaks (2 minutes)
Cross examination (1 minute)
One minute prep
NEG speaks (2 minutes)
Cross examination (1 minute)
AFF gives summary speech (1 minute)
NEG does the same (1 minute)

Maureen had given me the October 2012 issue of Harper's with High School Debate and the Demise of Public Speech by Ben Lerner, a former high school debater (a national champion even).  Ben talked a lot about the spread of "spreading" which is talking really fast like those voices speaking legalese during television commercials, and small print that goes by quickly everywhere.  In making reasoning somewhat unintelligible and intimidating, one creates more space for the slow plodding of unreason, for political sound bites.

Interestingly, he traces the Lincoln-Douglas style debate, Tara's specialty, and which slows it down and relates issues to values, to Phillips Petroleum, these days Conoco-Phillips.  This corporate person, and adviser to the National Forensics League, was having a hard time with "spreading" as well, and designed this newer event format (LD) to slow things down somewhat.

Ben considers that more evidence of the fragmentation of US discourse.  There's dumb slow political talk playing on sentiments, mixed with fast unintelligible legalese, and precious little in between.  He wonders if Occupy with its "open mic" experiments (people repeating others' words) marked the beginning of a revived folk discourse, more oriented towards democratic practices.

Gonzo said he'd read the article and photocopied it for his team captains.

I notice Burgerville is serving beer and wine in Washington.  Do we have that in Oregon yet?  That state is just so much ahead of ours in some ways.

Good seeing Gonzo, Ben and Izzy again.  Hello to Hannah.  Hello from Tara.

I was able to download from a fair selection of stop watch apps to my Razr / M (Android).  This helped with my timings.  Time is taken quite seriously in these events.  There might be a 30 second grace period here and there, but no more than that.