Rewriting our Narrative

by Alexis Huang

Five seconds on the clock.

“Thus, we proudly negate.”

“Ready for crossfire?”

“Yes. You can have the first question.”

“How do debaters measure the success of other debaters/teams?”

Well, there’s not really a success-o-meter in debate. Every debater has the same goal in mind at tournaments: win. While having this determination isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not hard for it to become one. Debaters have turned threat lists, career bid counts, and rankings into measures for success. Unfortunately, this has become a root cause for toxicity and often times, sexism. Individuals do anything it takes to gain higher levels of “success”, even at the expense of their friendships.

“Okay, you mentioned an obsession over measuring success and that it’s bad. What are the harms that are associated with this obsession?”

So when debaters become immersed in their silly little world of “god” debaters, clout, and bids, they lose sight of the important things. Debaters become obsessed with creating connections for the clout, rather than making friends for the sake of getting to know someone for who they are. This unhealthy obsession generates deeply rooted issues in sexism and otherization. Younger debaters often feel like they’re not “worthy” of talking to more experienced, “godly” teams. This has driven many debaters to feel alone, to hate the event, and in some instances, quit. This act of exclusion is felt most often by female debaters, alienated from the same measures of success that allow male teams to thrive. More often than so, male debaters are the ones who get worshipped and defined as successful.

“Can I have a follow up question?”

“Go for it.”

“What can we do to change the mindset of debaters?”

While it’s probably impossible to convince every debater that success shouldn’t be measured arbitrarily in career bid count or their tier level on a threat list, creating awareness among the community is a small step towards change. High school is short. The four years may seem like forever in the moment, but in looking back on each year, time really does fly. Imagine this. Fast forward five years in your life. Five years from now (sorry guys hate to break it to you), nobody’s going to remember how many career bids you had at the end of senior year, or that you were a tier 2 threat at UK, or that you were ranked 18th in the country before Bronx. Rather, you’re going to remember your true friends, the inside jokes, and the most memorable moments you had while being surrounded by people who love and care about you.

“We have like 30 seconds left. Can I get in one last question?”

“Sure thing!”

“So, how should we really measure success in debate?”

Success is an extremely vague term. We shouldn’t limit the ways we measure success. Every debater has their own individual goals, whether it’s, for example, doing more weighing at the end of rebuttal or creating a better second-half strategy. Every goal you set and achieve, small or big, is a success and those improvements define a debater’s success. The most successful debaters are the ones who strive to become better than they were yesterday and push themselves to the limit. It’s impossible to look at a subjectively created threat list or count a team’s bids to measure their triumphs. Only the debater themself knows how successful they are. Remember, every team is beatable regardless who the circuit deems as “gods” in the event.

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