What My Break From Debate Taught Me

by Dori Schurr

Hello! I’m back! Break is over! I apologize for the crying sessions I may have triggered over school starting again.  I am in the same boat. Senioritis has definitely kicked in and I would rather be doing anything else. Anyways, coming back to school doesn’t just mean homework.  It means debate is back in my life. I haven’t competed since Glenbrooks, and I have had quite the time since then.  I realized over the break that I wanted to restructure my ideas about debate and what it means to me.  

I don’t want to remember how many gold bids I accumulated over the years.  They are a way to measure success, sure, but realistically, when I look back on my debate career, I won’t go around whatever college or university I attend bragging about my bid count.  I’ll reflect on the skills I have gained over the years and the way I carry myself as a woman in debate. The fact that I persisted through the sea of discrimination and inequality is already enough to walk away from this activity incredibly proud of myself.  It has changed me as a person; I no longer cower away from things that scare me.  

Debate has also taught me a lot about failure.  As a senior, that is a subject that everyone needs a crash course on.  Getting rejected from a school is not the end of the world. Losing a round is not the end of the world.  If it weren’t for debate, I wouldn’t be able to understand why things don’t go my way. The fact that debate is arbitrary is a reminder that when I lose or I don’t get a desired result, it isn’t always because of any fault of my own.  Sometimes, we lose things for reasons we do not understand. A few weeks ago, I received devastating news from the college I had dreamed of attending.  Rather than pining over the result, I moved on in less than a week, and now look forward to seeing the results of regular decision.  

Debate has showed me that I could be talking about some of the most important issues of my lifetime rather than nearly bursting my eardrums with a room full of people I barely recognize.  The opportunity to have an educated discussion about the economy or the crisis in Yemen is not one that most high school students have. Many have the opportunity to participate in debate but decide not to partake in it.  Rather than considering it a chance to put another bauble on my shelf that I won’t care about in a year, I can use debate as a platform to discuss the myriad of issues that I am passionate about. I am also gaining valuable skills that nobody my age really develops unless they take public speaking courses in college.  I will be graduating high school having conquered a fear that makes most people tremble: I can speak in front of a crowd. At my high school, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate a debate on the pharmaceutical topic to the entire student body. Although I was lightly ridiculed for it, I knew that the only reason anyone felt the need to make fun of me was because they were insecure about the fact that they could never have done what I did.  

These reflections are here for those who need them.  If you’re working through roadblocks in debate or feel like this activity isn’t worth your time, I am here to tell you that it is.  Although it has taken 4 years for me to fully comprehend the importance of this activity besides winning, this realization has changed me as a person.  There is no activity that will provide you with as much as debate does. Figuring out how important debate is requires a significant amount of thought and maturity that some of us don’t quite have yet.  Some are still stuck inside what seems to be a tunnel full of obstacles with no light at its end. If any of my writing has taught you anything, it’s that if you work hard enough for it, and believe in the goodness of debate, you will find the light.  

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