I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, excitedly so, because on Saturday I got to ride my bike over to West Baltimore to judge an elementary and middle school debate tournament. It was pretty much all of my nerd dreams come true–and then I was issued my badge and that was all she wrote. After our Official Training, which consisted of a review of the rules and a reminder that we’re judging 4th graders so let’s leave the Mean Girl shit at home, we were left to wander the halls and wait for all the teams to check in and all the fruit snacks to be eaten before we started. I wandered the halls, checking out the cosmetology studio and the cooking suite and the posters on the wall for the prom raffle and lists of students who’ve passed HSA exams and inspirational quotations from George Washington Carver and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and then these boards, sprinkled around the school: “How are you positively affecting the data?” And the bar graphs track things like GPA, yearly attendance by grade level, dropout rates, and graduation rates, broken out by class year, including the previous two years and the goal for the current year. I thought about this sign as I rode back through the surrounding neighborhoods, blighted blocks interrupted by the brick cubes of housing complexes and the occasional church and corner store. I wonder who thought “How are you positively affecting the data?” would be a motivating message to high school students in this neighborhood. Who thought that what young people growing up in this neighborhood are really concerned with is how their attendance at school may or may not affect THE DATA? How am I positively affecting the data? From what I saw on Saturday, a better question would surely be, “Who wants to join the debate team?” or “When are they posting the pairings?” Thank you, Baltimore Urban Debate League and your many tiny debaters, for a really good start to my vacation.