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.
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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 ...
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This film was great because it brought back a lot of memories. It'd been so long that I'd forgotten how much work went into preparing for and attending the many many many tournaments. And it'd been ages since I'd heard someone talk about the
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