Wednesday, December 23, 2009


When I attended Holy Family High School in North Denver, Sister Marie Catherine Pondorff, S. L., my freshman English teacher, noted that I had the gift of gab and enjoyed talking lots. She encouraged me to join up with the forensics club at our school. "The medium is the message," as Marshall McLuhan, said, and the message from Sister was sign up "it will be good for you and debating will help build your confidence, teach you to be a leader, you will travel on Saturdays and meet interesting students from other schools, and you will learn lots about the debate topic." I believe the topic that year was a guaranteed annual income for all American citizens. Underneath the positive messages of confidence building, leadership, and helping forge myself on the smithy of my soul nested another message: "Sign up for debate, Dennis, or I will make your life miserable in my English class."

Because she was a great persuader with a contagious and jolly laugh, and I knew I would enjoy debating, arguing, verbally scrapping. So I happily and eagerly signed up for all the extra work on evenings after school and debate meets on Saturdays all around our state. I confess I enjoyed every minute of it. It changed my life. Debate made me confident. My grades improved and I did well in Sister Marie's English class.

I thought of my debating experience in high school and college the other day when I received a report from NAUDL, the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues. This organization announced that their association has expanded services to over 150 new schools this last year. NAUDL is now in Denver.

I hope the newly elected school board will look into bringing more speech and debate classes into the curriculum. Those classes will change the student's lives as it did mine. Debate will get them ready for college; help with their career choices; and give them leadership skills.

I plan on sending another donation to NAUDL by checking the website: Tell your friends. Check out the free movie from the Denver Public Library, The Great Debaters with Denzel Washington. This captivating story will persuade you of the importance of debate teachers in our lives and in our schools.

And if the school board really wants to improve the curriculum; change students' lives; give them a sense of history and language; they will vote to bring Latin back into the curriculum. Debate was great for me in school. But studying Latin was even better. Smile until my next blog about Latin. Tu ne cede malis.

1 comment:

Marianne Alonzi said...

Great article, Dennis. Speech and Debate Classes are alive and well within the walls of our Alma Mater!

Marianne Alonzi
Holy Family High School
Director of Alumni & Community Events