The fascinating complexity of high school debate gives way to a portrait of the equally complex racial and class bias of American education in Greg Whiteley's riveting documentary. ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Samuel Alito ...
Louis Blackwell ...
Louis Blackwell
Jon Bruschke ...
Jon Bruschke
Matthew Edwards ...
Matthew Edwards
Richard Funches ...
Richard Funches
Sam Iola ...
Sam Iola
Juan Williams ...
Juan Williams
David Wiltz ...
David Wiltz
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The fascinating complexity of high school debate gives way to a portrait of the equally complex racial and class bias of American education in Greg Whiteley's riveting documentary. Initially a portrait of top-flight debaters from well-funded, mostly white schools-like nationally ranked Sam Iola and Matt Andrews of Highland Park, Texas-the film deepens when it changes focus to Richard Funches and Louis Blackwell from Long Beach's Jordan squad. While gifted traditional debaters in their own right, the two decide to challenge the usefulness of the jargon-filled, 400-word-per-minute style of modern debate (known as "the spread") by steering their debates toward issues of personal experience and dialogue. What is the use of refining an argument, they stress, when it does not affect the reality of a person's locale and particular life? Why must individual perspective and bias be masked? For many, these questions present such a radical interpretive shift that competitors and judges crumble ... Written by Anonymous

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Documentary

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Rated PG-13 for some strong language and teen smoking
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23 June 2007 (USA)  »

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Brings back a lot of memories and a few new wrinkles
17 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I was on 2 state championship teams in the early 1970's and while we, too, tried to "spread" our opponents, it was nothing like the pace I saw in this film. The speed-talking and air gulping made the participants nearly incomprehensible and I certainly felt for their opponents and judges who were trying keep their flow-sheets of arguments and counter-arguments straight. It was difficult enough in my day at our pace where the speed of our oratory was only slightly faster than normal speech.

Therefore, I thought the "revolutionary" approach by the Long Beach students was a type of appeal for "retro" or "old school" debate where, indeed, the emphasis was on the quality of the arguments and their presentation rather than information overload... although, I must admit that the affirmative case that my partner and I built did have elements of information overload.

One other thing I noticed was the giant tubs filled with manila folders that, I presume, contained printouts from the "for pay" research websites. In my day, we used metal file boxes and filled them with 6x9 index cards that we accumulated in summer debate "workshops" or frequent visits to the Emory University library. We had to transcribe all of our research onto the index cards as cutting up library books was generally frowned upon.

I really enjoyed the documentary and was particularly fascinated by the Long Beach duo who not only struck as being super smart, but also very capable of thinking "outside the box."


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