That competitive debaters speak too quickly — and too monotonously, without clarity or persuasiveness — is a common criticism. I wrote about this a few months ago after reading a masterful description of “fast debate” in Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School. If you’ve been involved even tangentially in debate, you’re undoubtedly familiar with this criticism. I knew it had been common for many (many) years, but I didn’t realize until recently just how long ago it began.
In a 1918 article (“Delivery in Debate”) in the nascent Quarterly Journal of Speech Education (later renamed the Quarterly Journal of Speech), Chas F. Lindsley—a professor at the University of Minnesota—expressed many of the same gripes about debaters’ speaking that one still hears today. Think I’m exaggerating?Continue reading