The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 15, 2013

Mike Pound: Asking parents to judge debate a risky venture

— When I was in high school, we didn’t have a debate team.

Well, it’s possible that we did and I didn’t know it because, let’s face it, I didn’t exactly run in debate team circles. Smart kids run in debate team circles, and I was not, nor am I now, smart. If my high school had a moron team, I would have been a four-year starter. But it didn’t, so I wasn’t.

Our 14-year-old daughter, Emma, however, is on her high school’s debate team. Emma, thankfully, is much smarter than I am. Of course, it’s possible that Emma, with her debate team training, will soon be able to logically defuse every argument I present to her.

Emma: “Can I stay out until midnight?”

Me: “No.”

Emma: “Hmm, interesting you should say that. Statistically, teenagers whose parents let them stay out until midnight are four times more likely to do well in school and go on to successful careers. I guess you don’t want me to have a successful career.”

Me: “Uh, what?”

Because my wife and I are debate team parents, we were asked to help out at the big debate tournament over the weekend at Emma’s high school.

I know.

Me judging a debate tournament is like Donald Trump judging a hair design competition.

My wife and I were to judge two rounds (I think they call them rounds) Friday evening and one round on Saturday.

On Saturday, one of us needed to get up early to judge a round that began at 8 a.m. while one of us could sleep in and judge a bit later. I generously volunteered to judge at 8 a.m.

“That’s so sweet of you,” my wife said.

“Relax, it’s what good husbands do,” I said.

“Wait,” she said. “There is a football game you want to watch this afternoon, isn’t there?”

“No. Whatever gave you that idea?” I asked in a very hurtful tone.

“Logic,” my wife said.

My wife should have been on a debate team.

On Friday morning, Emma tried to prepare me for my judging duties. Emma told me that I wasn’t supposed to let my personal feelings affect my judgment. She also told me to be sure and tell the debaters that I was a parent judge.

“Why?” I asked.

“So they can dumb things down,” Emma said.

“Oh,” I said.

As it turns out, the debaters didn’t have to dumb things down for me. Not because I’m smart, but because the folks in charge didn’t have me judge debates. Instead, I judged something called “Prose and Poetry,” “Original Oratory” and “Humorous Interpretation.”

My wife had to judge some sort of debate between two guys named Lincoln and Douglas.

“Hey, didn’t President Lincoln debate some guy named Douglas?” I asked my wife.

“You’re a moron,” my wife said.

When the first contestant in the Prose and Poetry competition entered the room, I wrote down her name, her secret debate tournament code and the name of her selection. Then I told her to begin. The young lady presented her introduction, but she did so in a strange way.

“Oh, she’s nervous,” I said to myself.

“No, she’s not, you moron,” myself said back to me. “She’s acting. It’s her character who is nervous.”

“Oh,” I said to myself.

I actually enjoyed judging at the debate tournament. It sort of made me feel good about the future being around all those smart kids. But because all of the kids were required to wear suits, it was sort of like being surrounded by hundreds of little lawyers. It’s not that I have anything against lawyers, it’s just that I really don’t want to be surrounded by them.

Saturday, after I finished my judging duties, I went home and met my wife as she was getting ready to leave for the tournament.

“Say hello to Lincoln and Douglas,” I said.

My wife muttered something under her breath. It sounded like “moron.”

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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