When I was first introduced to debate, it was kind of by accident. I didn’t necessarily go looking for the class; in fact, I didn’t even know that there was a debate team at my school. My friend was giving me a ride home after school but needed to talk to a teacher before heading home. I followed her into Ms. Gardea’s class and was left in complete awe as I walked in. Two students were having a pretty intense argument about foreign relations with America. Another kid was reciting a speech to a wall and two other students were acting out some sort of play. My friend had finished talking to Ms. Gardea and had to literally drag me out of the classroom because her mom was waiting outside. I walked away completely confused and left wondering, “What was that?!” The next day, I peeked into Ms. Gardea’s classroom again. This time there was only one girl reciting a speech about how we all take things for granted. It was amazing!. Ms. Gardea noticed me intrusively listening at the door and asked if I needed anything. Before I knew it, my curious mouth blurted out, “What is this?” and she answered, “This? Well, this is debate.”
The next couple of days, Ms. Gardea started teaching me what speech and debate really was. I quickly learned that it’s something that isn’t for the faint of heart—debate’s main focus is getting out there: in front of lots of people! There are different events in debate that require you to talk, act or argue. The talking events are oratory and extemporaneous speeches. These two events are perfect for writers and outgoing people. In these categories, you write your own speeches, with your own opinions, and tell people how you really feel. The acting events include humorous interpretation, duo interpretation, dramatic interpretation, prose, and poetry. These events are perfect for aspiring actors, theater fans, and loud people. Here, you get to act out scenes from books and plays; they are fun to watch, but so much more fun to act! Finally debate wouldn’t be debate without actually debating. The arguing events are LD, CX, PF, and student congress. Arguments cover topics like whether teachers should be paid based on performance and if the United States should intervene in another nation’s struggle for democracy. These are the events that call for a lot of quick thinking, planning and guts.
After a quick overview of what debate was, I decided to try it out. Competitions are serious and long. Professional attire is needed, and girls are dressed in pencil skirts, dress shirts, coats, heels and panty hose. I learned that my first event was PF. My partner, a newbie like me, and I would be debating whether plea bargaining undermined the criminal justice system. When I first got to the school where the competition took place, I thought it was going to be very quiet with people going over their cases, but mostly there was yelling, pizza, and fun! I found my team and we stuffed ourselves with pizza before it was time for our rounds. For a while, I was having so much fun just meeting a lot of new witty people that I had forgotten I was actually going to compete! Then I saw a huge mob gather at the corner of the cafeteria. Curiously, I went to where see what it was, and they were all looking at “postings,” which were the assignments of who was going against who, where it was happening, and what time. I quickly jotted down my room number and competitors’ names and noticed that my first round was happening in 5 minutes! My partner and I rushed upstairs, trying to figure out the campus. We found the room, caught our breath, composed ourselves and walked into the classroom. Our competition was John and Karen, two amazing, friendly people that I had previously met that day. Instead of being their funny characters, they were serious and introduced themselves formally in front of our judge. My partner and I followed, and became serious also. Finally it was time. We flipped a coin over who was going first and what side we would argue. After an agonizing, tiring and intense hour, the round was over. I’m going to be completely honest with you and share that we lost badly. My partner and I had even agreed with the opposing side at the end instead of continuing our own case!
But now, after about two years of practice and experience, I can honestly say that debate has taught me so much. I now have less fear of talking in front of people, writing has become easier, and my quick thinking is faster. I love debate and strongly recommend that you try it! This, well, this is debate.