Author: NSD_Update

Back to Reality

By NSD instructor, Alex Smyk There’s nothing more annoying than hearing your speech and debate teammates making a classroom presentation. More often than not, they turn your English classroom into a competitive round by using their “debate voice” – by bringing the world of forensics tumbling awkwardly into a room full of students who think forensics means CSI. LDers talk too aggressively and quickly, Congressers let the occasional “ladies and gentlemen” slip, and interpers are uncomfortably animated. Usually, someone in the room turns to you and says, “Isn’t he on the debate team, why is he talking so weird?” We often hear about how debate endows us with all sorts of life skills, from nailing interviews to making good pickup lines. Sometimes, though, those skills aren’t so evident on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, forensics is self-contained; who the hell knows what things like “cross-apply” mean? If anyone has watched CSPAN, they know that the average speech in the House of Representatives isn’t animated, or exciting, or divided into distinct points. One thing that the best debaters learn, however, is adaptation. When you see a yuppy, East Coast judge in the back of the room, you should be speaking a little differently than you would be for an elderly female from the Mid-West. Why don’t debaters apply that same sense of judge adaptation to the world beyond forensics?...

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Give and Take

By NSD instructor, Alex Smyk One thing debaters don’t think about in a round is how they got there. I don’t mean how they got to an obscure classroom somewhere in Cambridge at the tournament hosted by a certain inferior Ivy League university – I mean how they obtained the financial resources to attend, how the tournament was able to sift through all the bureaucracy, and how all the surrounding debate infrastructure came into place. Think about it – the costs, the red tape, the leagues; they all had to originate from somewhere, but we take them for granted. The problem is that most of the country doesn’t have access to any of them – or even the resources and initiative to make it happen. Youth for Debate is a student organization at Columbia that teaches public speaking and debate at disadvantaged high schools across New York City. As a board member, I can tell you that it brings real change – giving to an activity that many take skills, success, and invaluable experiences from. It is currently in the process of becoming a national non-profit, so keep a head up for it near you! Check out its youtube...

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