I once competed in a speech meet, way back when I was in seventh grade. My only category was poetry - I recited 'Casey at the Bat' and won first place, which was, up to that point, my biggest accomplishment yet. I wish I had done something cooler, like Hamlet or maybe Letters to Penthouse, but whatever. Hindsight's 20-20, I guess.
So when my daughter told me she was in a speech meet, I was thrilled. She is an incredible student - far better than I ever was - and she's sharp as a tack, too. She was in two events, storytelling and debate. Neither of us could be bothered to care a lot about storytelling - her speech coach made her sign up, and she couldn't have cared less. But we were both kind of stoked about debate. She wants to be a wealthy lawyer, and I think she's got the chops. She sure as hell knows how to argue with me.
Sadly, speech meets for junior high kids don't seem to be a very big deal in my city. The meet was at a local high school, and was primarily run by the high school debate team. If these debaters are the upcoming politicians and attorneys for our great nation, then God help us all, because these were some stupid, stupid kids. For one thing, they were all wearing the debate team shirts, which were seriously retarded garments. They had a top five list on the back, for crying out loud. I have an idea that's way more original - you could make a shirt that says, 'Got Debate?' on the front, and on the back it could say, 'Debating: Priceless'. Freaking ignorant nerds. Someone ought to beat them with a rubber mallet just for wearing those stupid shirts.
For the first debate challenge, my daughter faced off against a girl who was not only half an hour late, but was also thoroughly unprepared. The entire thing took five minutes, because the other girl (who told the judge she memorized her case) forgot her case. Total deer-in-the-headlights blank. So my daughter, who spent three weeks writing cases, walks away with almost no points. Apparently, debate is unlike sports, where a win is a win - if you clobber the other team 95-0, you still get to put it in the win column. In debate, however, if the other person gives up and walks away, you get only a little bit of win. This came back to make me more angry later in the day.
The second challenge was between my daughter and one of her classmates. In this particular debate, the judge ended the entire session one round early, and then proceeded to tell both contestants that they left off their closing remarks. Well, no kidding, Whiz Kid, you cut them off before they were done. My daughter, however, kicked ass (metaphorically - it's debate, not kickboxing), closing remarks notwithstanding.
The third challenge was even more of a debacle. In this case, the other kid's main argument against my daughter's intensely persuasive contentions was to say, 'yeah, like what?' Sadly, it was at the end of this particular debate that my intestinal difficulty reared its ugly head, and I was forced to make haste to a public restroom at a public high school and was not able to watch my daughter complete the humiliation of the uninspired mama's boy. I was there long enough to note that the judge for this round cut it even shorter than the last one, just not long enough to see the dorky loser boy start crying.
As if to make a bad situation even worse, my daughter (who completely destroyed her opposition in three out of three matches) did not make the semifinals. Why? Because she did not get enough points against the first opponent. Both of her other opponents, on the other hand, did make the semifinals, because my daughter ran them so hard that they were given points for continuing to attempt to counter her brilliant, unrelenting logic (despite failing completely). So to sum up, my daughter prepared for three weeks, executed her debate skills with the brilliance of a military tactician, and two of the three people with whom she mopped classroom floors went on, and she did not.
I can only hope that the debate team process improves as my daughter gets older. As it stands now, I could not be any less impressed. I know that my daughter could rock your face off in a debate - as I said, she does it to me all the time. I'm not just saying this because she's my kid (though that is a completely sufficient reason). If she was a bonehead, I would tell you, because it would be funny. No, she's a damned brilliant kid, and it makes me sick that she wasted her efforts on such a complete circus sideshow.
In fact, that gives me an idea for the next speech meet. Instead of wearing those dumb-ass t-shirts, the high school debate team could wear round red noses and huge shoes, and when they arrive at the school, they could all pile out of a VW Bug. Instead of crappy nachos and dry pizza, the cafeteria could sell peanuts and cotton candy. Because while watching my daughter destroy her competition in a contest of genius was one of the proudest moments I've had in a long time, the debate team at that high school was a circus.
If you get the chance to attend a debate contest when your kid is in high school or college, I'm betting it would be very cool. But if your kid is in junior high, just drop her off and then go spend the day at the batting cages. They serve hot dogs there, too.
Massive pride in watching your kid kick ass
Bonding with your spawn
High school debate teams should be competing, not judging
Oh, yeah, one more note - my daughter took third in storytelling.