“Excuses Are Tools of the Incompetent” Sign at Carver Vo-Tech High School at 2201 Presstman Street

wpid-IMG_20140329_144215.jpgI rode my bike a lot last week–it’s how I get around 90% of the time–but I didn’t write, giving my typing hands a rest. I saw some good stuff while off the blog: another round of snow, the first crocuses of this slow-in-coming spring, suburban potholes being paved over and city potholes growing wide enough to see the brick of past roads showing through, and, on Saturday, another debate tournament. It was spitting rain when I got up that morning, a little more when I got on the bike to head to Carver High for my first high school competition. I sped down the hill and to the right, taking Stoddard Alley like the googleymap told me to do; that map doesn’t know how much trash and broken glass you’ve got to hop on that route. My glasses were eventually so rained and fogged that I couldn’t really see what I was doing, so I stopped under the overhand at the Upton boxing club to wipe my lenses and check the map. I zigged and zagged a bit more and then I was at the high school, lounging in the judges’ lounge, the smell of crock-potted hot dogs filling the room–an ominous sign for lunch. It felt a bit like Saturday school for grown ups as we all waited for our turn in the ring. I answered emails on my phone since I forgot my book at home in my rush to flee a broken toilet (thanks, N. for your help), that one guy ate cookies while listening to something on his headphones and watching colors change on his computer screen (I’m sure the colors had meaning, but the headphones suggested he would not be amenable to inquiries), a woman read her novel (definite mommy judge), and that other guy slept in the corner, slumped down in a chair against the wall. And then I was called up. Oh, high school debate, how you have changed and also not changed! There was the swagger, the pen-flipping, the nerves, the heady arguments that went far beyond the proposition–in this case, something about increasing cooperation with Latin American nations. There was also the jazz music played at the beginning of of the 1NC alongside an argument about the opacity of meaning and Afro-pessism, the 1AC that opened with the debater singing her argument, demanding the voice of women of color find a space in debate, because this space matters too, and the citations of Frank Wilderson, Fred Moten, Michel Foucault, and one of my favorite moments–“We win the ballot on the Baudrillard card.” And they did. There’s smart stuff going on in debate, and it was a pleasure to watch this students battle it out with arguments just enough over their heads to keep them excited. I snapped this picture during prep time in one round. 10 minutes watching a round of high school debate and you know that this poster is about the least inspirational thing you could offer these kids. And it’s grammatically incorrect. And then I had to leave early and bike home through much heavier rain, but as a fellow cyclist said to me as we left the station together in the rain last Thursday, the worst day on a bike is better than the best day in a car. No debate about that.

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