Memory can be so fickle. Like some great book that is slowly loosing its pages, you begin with an entire novel full of details and descriptions and, if you're not careful, you end up with nothing more than the cover and the brief synopsis on the back page. My novel on the subject of the end of summer school debate has lost its share of pages but the back-cover synopsis, the essence of the entire experience, is still with me.
"We are about to begin our annual debating tournament," the instructor beamed with an enthusiasm that let each of us know how happy he was that we had made it this far. "It will be the culmination of your six weeks of learning and will count as a considerable part of your grade for the course. We will begin at eight tomorrow morning. Get some practice, get some sleep, see you there."
I don't know what drew me to the course but I can remember my parents telling me they felt I should go to summer school. I was opposed to the concept of summer school right up to the moment I was issued the dictum "go to school or get a job", at which point I became the world's greatest advocate of off-season learning. Besides, I was only fifteen and the workplace just wasn't ready for me. So I thumbed through the course book, singing a chorus of no's until I arrived on the Debate and Public Speaking page. There resided a large photograph of a boy confidently standing behind an ornate podium, clearly frozen in the middle of some captivating and influential argument. I read the passage describing the course and was immediately sold. How could a stuffy math class or a trivial course in art compare to "a course that teaches students the skills and techniques of competitive debate, culminating in a week long tournament?" So I filled out the forms and mailed them and before I knew It I was sitting in a lecture hall, learning the skills and techniques of competitive debate.
As I have said, I was only fifteen and...