Sunday, October 26, 2014

We Share a Debatable Gene

I didn't get to post, yesterday.  You want to know why?  Because my crazy behind was up at 4AM in order to take Peanut to a debate contest.  Not only did I take her to the school, but I had also agreed to go and chaperone the debate event.  

Now, you all know that I love a good debate, but I'll admit I wasn't exactly thrilled about giving up an entire Saturday to listen to 9th and 10th graders debate.  I could actually think of a million different ways I could have spent my Saturday.  I envisioned a day of sitting in a chair listening to kids drone on and on about selected topics that I had absolutely no interest in whatsoever, and basically do everything in my power to stay awake.

To make matters worse, I'd hardly slept the night before.  Jelly's kitten, Shadow, had decided to sleep with me and he's not exactly the easiest cat to sleep with.  He's a snuggler, but wants to snuggle under my neck or on my face.  I just knew if I feel asleep, he was going to smoother me.  So, I was planning a day at a debate contest after receiving about an hour's worth of sleep. Awesome!

So, back to the debate contest.  

We arrived at the school that was hosting the event, and sat around for a while as the kids prepared for their first "battle".  Peanut and her partner sat and studied their cases and made sure they had all their ducks in a row.  I have become quite knowledgeable about the topic because Peanut has been using me to practice for the past couple of weeks.

Even though I wasn't in debate as a high schooler, I consider myself to be quite the debater.  I have an opinion about just about any topic you can think of, and if need be, will research the pants of my opinion in order to support it.  I also have the ability to see the opposing side, and could debate that side if I needed to, as well.  

Peanut and her partner were debating the topic of whether or not their was a benefit to a community when using public subsidies to build athletic stadiums.  When I first heard the topic a few weeks ago, I thought it was going to be a dry as dirt topic.  What I quickly found out, however, is that it's a great topic to debate because there's a fair amount of proof either side of the story.  Peanut's job was to argue the con case, meaning she had to prove that there were no benefits to communities.  Her partner prepared the pro case.  That means I got to play the pro case when I was helping Peanut prepare.  Both of them also had to be prepared to argue the opposing side that they'd studied, because they could find themselves debating either side of the topic once they got in to the debate rooms.

I feel like I had fully prepared Peanut for either side of the case.  While she felt very strongly about the evidence she had collected about athletic stadiums being more of a detriment to the local communities, I was also able to enlighten her with my own evidence that I found proving the contrary.  Which is what her partner had researched, in-depth, and so they were ready for whatever side they had to debate.

They received their first match-up a little after 8AM, and we made our way to the room where the first battle would ensue.  When we got there, their opposing partners were already waiting.  Peanut and her partner decided to "feel them out" by sparking up a friendly conversation.  As we sat and waited, the four of them had a very friendly conversation about everything except debate.  The only information they shared about debate was how long they'd been doing it.  The girl from the other team told Peanut and her partner that she'd never debated before, it was her first time and the boy shared that he'd debated a couple of times before but with a different partner each time.  It was his first time debating with the girl he was with.  I saw Peanut's face light up with that information, and I knew it would come back to bite them in the rear once the debate got started.  They, then, discussed their schools, where they were from, their interests, etc.  It was nice to see them all talking like they'd known each other for years, and I know that it definitely helped Peanut's nerves.  She does much better debating when she knows who she's up against.  After having to sit there for about 45 minutes, the time finally came for them to get started.

We went in to the room, and I sat in the back.  Apart from the judge, I was the only other person in the room.  The kids took their sides, and unloaded the mountain of binders and folders that they needed for their case.  I tell you what, it was like being in a court room and watching opposing council getting ready for a trial.  There's no little speech and a few pieces of documented sources for these kids, they were all professional.  They had MOUNTAINS of evidence and information to use to support their cases, and it was quite eye opening to realize how much work these kids had put in to prepare.

Peanut and her partner lost the coin toss, so the opposing side got to pick whether they wanted pro or con or decide if they wanted to speak first or second.  They decided to go with choosing the con side, so the girls got to decide that they wanted to speak second.  I could see that Peanut was a little nervous about debating the pro side, but I gave her a supportive smile and crossed my fingers under the desk I was sitting in.  

The first girl got started, and it was obvious that she was EXTREMELY nervous.  She stumbled over her first speech and did everything in her power to keep it together.  Then it was Peanut's partner's turn to speak.  She delivered a powerful intro speech, and I was blown away with how much more prepared they seemed.  Then it was time for the other side to argue what Peanut's partner had said, and he did a pretty good job attacking some of her points, but I saw a look in Peanut's eyes that told me he probably shouldn't get too confident, because she was about to rip him apart.  And she did.  She stood up and attacked his contentions, and when it was time to go in to "crossfire" (the individual opponents from each side get to ask questions of each other), it took everything he had to hold himself together.  In fact, Peanut was able to push about every button the boy had, and he even lost his temper a little.  Once he did, I knew that the victory was going to Peanut's side, because apparently rule #1 in a debate is keeping your cool.  In the last crossfire, Peanut and her partner tore the opposing team to shreds with their argument and evidence, and the other team didn't know what to do.  When it was all said and done, the poor girl on the other side was almost in tears, and the boy shook Peanut's hand and said "Well, you just kicked our butts".  I was stunned and extremely proud at what I just witnessed.  And there I was thinking I'd spend my day trying hard to stay awake because I'd be so bored.  HA!

The second debate was much better, and both sides were worthy opponents.  The debate stayed calm and collected, and both sides did an amazing job at defending their sides.  The girls had to argue the exact same side as the first debate.  The two boys that they were up against didn't lose their cool, and kept the whole thing very professional and interesting.  In fact, when it was over I had no idea who had won.  It could have gone either way.  Luckily, the girls came out victorious. 

The third debate was way worse than the first.  Peanut and her partner got their first opportunity to defend the con case.  This time around, the girls hadn't been able to speak to the opposing team before starting, so they had no idea what they were up against.  But, it became quite apparent once the team got started that they were extremely new to debating, and they weren't prepared to defend the pro side of the case.  The girls baited their opponents in to rookie mistakes, like getting the opposing team to agree with the evidence they had, proving that their evidence was outdated and irrelevant, and even managed to get the other team so riled up that they ended up fighting during the debate.  As the boy stood up to defend their side of the debate, and attack Peanut's side, the boy's partner told him (loud enough for me and the judge to hear) to shut-up.  Once that happened, I knew victory belonged to Peanut and her partner.  

The last three debates were extremely intense.  They were up against seasoned debaters that weren't new to debating.  The girls had their work cut out for them, and they were tough debates.  The end results were extremely close, but the girls ended up losing by a small margin.  So, they ended out their day with a 3-3 score.  For it being only the second time either of them had debated in a contest, I don't think that's too bad.  The last three debates had paired them off with kids that had a year's worth of practice, so I think they did a dang good job.

It was after 5PM once the final debate ended, and I was absolutely exhausted.  We had to wait around for a while to find out the scores, and then Peanut and I were able to head home around 6PM.  

One thing I learned from the whole day is that my daughter definitely has my blood coursing through her veins.  Apparently, the ability to debate is in our genes.  I couldn't have been more proud watching her deliver her speeches and evidence, and I envisioned her years from now, standing in a court room, doing what she does best.  No wonder Peanut's interested in being a lawyer when she's older, she's born to do it.  I couldn't help but feel that sentimental spark that flashed before my eyes of me wanting to be a teacher when I was 5, and then picturing Peanut feeling the same way about being a lawyer.  My daughter has a very strong career ahead of her, and I wouldn't be surprised a bit to see politics in her future, even though she denies having any desire to think about that.

Being that I spent the whole Saturday watching kids debate, I am now back in that usual slump of needing to catch up on a day's worth of work.  I have laundry to do, grocery shopping, homework, grading, and lesson plans to write.  I could have done those things on Thursday or Friday, but I was also pretty busy on those days.  It's not like I've sat around for the past three days doing nothing.  But, I've grown quite accustomed to having busy, jam packed Sundays, and this Sunday is no exception.

So, I better get off here and get going on all that stuff if I plan on getting it all finished today.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


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