When we think back to our years spent in high school, we might remember a special teacher or two, a course of study that helped us to imagine our grown-up lives, maybe a first love, or even more likely, a group of good friends that made the journey with us. But also, for most of us, anyway, were the varied clubs and activities that filled our extracurricular hours. The chess, Spanish and the community service clubs, like the basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse teams, supplemented our educations and helped deliver us into adulthood.
A favorite for many was the Forensic Club. For those in the know, it is not related to the definition of forensic that speaks to the use of science to solve crimes popularized in recent years on serial television, but instead related to deploying rhetoric in advancing public discourse. Participants would face off with another, be given a topic and a few minutes, and then asked to advance an argument defending whatever point of view was assigned. Club members learned to empathize with the views of others. They found ways to make a point without losing their civility and to discern between credible sources to best persuade the judges and the audience.
Much like writing to a finite word count, competitors are challenged with forming a legitimate discussion, hoping to find resolution, under terrific restraint. They have to pick a point or two and stick to it. Today, more content is created on the internet in an instant than most of us could consume in a lifetime. If there is no editor to limit column inches or airtime, are we ever expected to get to the point? Is unfettered content facilitating unfettered conflict? On the other hand, can we effectively make a legitimate point without taking time to recognize the other hand?