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Continued: Does debate matter? Just ask Blaine High School teacher Ross Eichele

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 8, 2014 - 1:52 PM


Q: What inspires you to keep coaching?

A: First, the kids themselves. If someone comes in and they’re nervous, it takes a lot of courage. That’s inspiring. Most people run from their fears. The kids want to get better at something they might even be scared to do.

And seeing people change through time. There are so many people who think that change isn’t possible.

Also, it’s fun to be around other speech coaches. They have the same passion. They get the same joy out of seeing people tackle public speaking.


Q: What changes do you see in students as they go through speech and debate? What does it do for them?

A: When they come in, students are usually scared and nervous. To get comfortable, it takes time. Other students and our staff take them in, encourage them, and then they begin to have a taste of success. And then they dig in and become inspired.

Seeing the students become confident and articulate is pretty neat. Seeing them learn from the triumphs and heartbreaks of competition is also really rewarding.

I remember a student I had many years ago in debate who was mildly autistic. When he started, he didn’t look at people when he spoke. By his senior year, you never would’ve guessed that he had ever been uncomfortable speaking in front of others or thinking on his feet.

His life is better because he debated. Debate and speech does this for everyone.


Q: Why is speech and debate important?

A: The world needs people who can stand up and speak truth.

Many people are worried about looking or sounding dumb because of how they say something instead of what it is they have to say. I think the world would be better if we could say, “this is how I feel about …” or “I disagree with you. We should think about these other options or ideas,” instead of subversively working against something. We need more people to speak out, to be more eloquent and convincing and respectful at the same time.

Too often, ideas don’t get shared because people are afraid to share them or they don’t want to get into conflicts. The best ideas come out over time, and not just from one person.

Every day there are things competing to get your attention. Speech and debate can help you step back and analyze it. It can help clarify things or make sense of it.


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