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Balancing debate with academics and other stuff

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So I've been having a lot of... debate... with my family over the activity. I do LD, and love it. I've learned so much from it in the year I've done it - how to research, about current events, and - now that I'm focusing on K debate - critical issues like capitalism, racism, sexism, and homophobia that are all very real in our society. The people in the community are wonderful, and I've made most of my friends through it.

 

However, my parents are less happy about it, and I can see where they're coming from. I think that last year could have gone worse grade-wise (I ended with just one B out of As in my classes), but I was always thinking about debate one way or another, and when I got my laptop, I would do a little Spanish work, switch to Word to work on a spike, do a little English HW, go back to reading Giroux for half an hour. My parents also noticed that I was more stressed out - especially before tournaments. They also start to lose faith in debate as public speaking when they see TOC finals where people are talking at 8453 wpm.

 

I'm taking AP Biology this coming year, along with Honors Chemistry and other Honors courses. I'm a little worried that I might be able to keep up with the curriculum, from what I gather from my textbooks, and I'll definitely have to study the material at home. 

 

My family and I had a long discussion, and we came up with a some options:

 

1. I continue with the activity as before, and may or may not keep up my grades.

2. I stop going to local tourneys. Allows me to still do tech debate, which I love (but my parents hate), but will require a lot of preparation beforehand that might conflict with me studying at home.

3. I quit Forensics entirely. Solves all academic impacts but links to an Extreme Sadness DA.

4. I stay in the Forensics community and do OO or another activity that more visibly perfects public-speaking skills. Maybe I'll go to a local tourney or two for old times' sake.

 

Are there any other alternatives possible in my situation? I really want to debate, but I don't want to sacrifice my grades, for a "game", as much as it hurts to say it.

 

Can someone also hmu with a "benefits of debate" backfile or something because I wanna prep out the usual responses ("tech debate is stupid" "how is radical anarcho-super-destructionist theory going to help you become a doctor" "you haven't become a better speaker, just able to talk really fast and argue with me better")

Edited by insertname
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I had four AP classes last year, was on varsity for cross country and track, and did policy debate, in addition to having to worry about the usual plethora of junior year standardized tests. Your life's not so bad, and if you think it is, you're in for a rude awakening in the next couple years. Debate improves your ability to perform in school, if you let it. It makes research papers 10000 times easier, which is a blessing for whatever history and English classes you'll take. It also forces you to be efficient; yes you're going to run short on time, but that doesn't mean you can't do everything, it just means that you have to be smarter about how you do it. This'll help when things actually start getting hard. Finally, I think at a certain level you have to reasses who you are as a person. I care very much about my grades, but I've made the decision that having a holistic high school experience is more important to me than getting a 4.0. I'm not saying you should just fail out of high school, but that 1-2 B's a semester is ok. If you disagree with that, then I think you have your answer.

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1. It does increase public-speaking ability by increasing your confidence to speak in the first place, by making you think ahead and have a plan for what you're going to say,  and by (hopefully) training you to avoid awkward pauses like 'um'.  Not to mention debate makes you more articulate and expressive.  The speed thing is just a dial that can be turned up or down.

 

2. Advocacy skills are important.  While parents might not like being on the receiving end of it, you have several very important advocacies in the near future (college applications, scholarship applications), and following college will likely go on dozens if not hundreds of interviews.  All of those are arguments.  

 

3. Debate improves high school graduation rates (doesn't sound like a problem in your case) and is perfect preparation for the new SAT, which focuses on key debate skills like interpreting passages (evidence).  Should help you kill on any AP test with an essay component, too - especially History.

 

4. As MartyP mentioned, debate prepares you for research papers.  Also essays.  Not just the research end - papers and essays are arguments.  And it aids in critical thinking.  Whether or not it helps in high school, most high schools do a poor job preparing students for college - and debate is preparing you for college.

 

Bonus true fact: I read vastly more philosophy in High School as a debater than I did in college because of LD, and engaged with it on a level far beyond what college undergrads ever do.  (I confess that a focus on pre-20th century 'philosophy classics' probably led to a better-rounded philosophy education than K-focused debaters get).

Edited by Squirrelloid
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How much feedback do your teachers give you? If they give weekly quizzes or something, then you can create a system where your parents refuse to let you attend tournaments unless your grades are at a certain level. Obviously this is worse than simply mustering up the self-discipline to put academics first, but sometimes measures like this are necessary. Controlling yourself by controlling the incentives that act on you is just another kind of character.

I basically slacked off and did nothing but debate in high school, do not recommend. It would have taken only a small amount more effort beforehand to prevent a lot of work later.

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Hi,

I will be very honest I think you should continue doing as much debate as you are doing now. 
By going to more than 6-7 tournaments a semester you are showing that you are very dedicated to the activity and that looks good on your resume.

In terms of whether debate is a good option I would take this into consideration

1) Debate teaches you how to write- when you approach questions and topics through a debater's lens you are able to clearly and concisely write arguments and ideas. Your word choice is generally more crisp and colorful than your non-debate counterparts.

2) New ideas- You are constantly forced to read and adapt to the constantly changing environment of debate and since you are into K debate you are more likely to interact with many different and new ideas that most "traditional" LD debaters may not come across. For example you can find out how medical ableism prevents queer youth of color from accessing certain healthcare options. You are in a much better position to handle the nature of SAT essays and College essays.

3) Handling pressure- You have probably had more than a few "oh shit" rounds and by your Junior/Senior year you are very unlikely to collapse in those situations. This will def help you in the real world when you are tasked with some difficult task or a word you have never heard of on the SAT. Your ability to mentally condition yourself will be critical to your success as a human.

 

These are just a few advantages to doing debate. Look i get that you are under a lot of pressure to succeed as a student and a debater. But at the end of the day 1 or 2 B's wont be a huge deal in comparison to how much an admissions officer values your debate skill.

 

In terms of maintaining your grades, maybe you should try and only do 1 hour a day of debate work unless you are nearing a tournament. Learn to be efficient and not cut things you wont use. Maybe when/if you work out/run you can think about arguments you want to run. If you are free during study halls take a notebook and write down ideas you have for debates. Or even blocks. I would handwrite blocks that I needed and then when i get home i would transfer that onto the computer. This saves you time and keeps you engaged.

Trust me, a college admissions officer would rather choose an average student with deep and interesting thoughts than a student who has excellent grades but is boring af. Just remember its the kids who don't think linearly who become successful in life not the ones who are super good at taking High School Vocab tests.

As someone who had fairly average grades, I can attest the value of debate in terms of getting me into college.

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Thanks so much guys. Does anyone have a link to this year's LD national finals or any big tourney's finals that was lay? I want to be able to prove that "typical" debate is just as important as tech debate.

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