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Debate and Unlocking the Talent Code

by Erik Fogel | Jul 31, 2017 1:49:02 PM |

debate, talent code


In this week's blog of "Debate for All" we shout out an inspirational article by Libby Romfhin who writes a blog "Change+Management: Exploring How Change Affects People." Libby's background is in organizational change with a MS in Organizational Change Management and 20+ years in managing change professionally for a large national retailer.  Libby came by one of our tournaments to check out our program and compared the urban debate league model with the book "The Talent Code." Click here for complete blog! (Libby Romfhin, "Off the Shelf: The Talent Code," July 28th https://changeplusmanagement.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/off-the-shelf-the-talent-code/)


"When I think about Talent, I think about the NY Urban Debate League, a local non-profit that helps teachers in under-served high schools create debate teams, teach their students to debate, sponsors debate tournaments, and sponsors attendance at mainstream debate tournaments. During the time that I volunteered with them, I saw kids, for whom school had been a dead end, learn to debate and take pride in their achievements, and kids who never had a thought of attending college earn debate scholarships at Northwestern, Emory, and other top-notch schools.


It’s become a thing now to blame the “everyone gets a prize” mentality for creating the aspects of the Millennial culture that rubs Gen X the wrong way. And I have to say that I initially looked a little askance at the awards ceremonies where two-thirds of the kids earned prizes. But then I saw one young man, dancing down the aisle of the auditorium, with his medal, shouting “I got a medal! I got a medal!” and how it encouraged him to work even harder.


As I greeted the kids before the sun came up, I wondered what on earth could inspire these kids to get up so early on a Saturday, subway several hours to school with huge plastic tubs of evidence, and spend the whole day formally arguing about climate change or school uniforms. But they did. Get me right: they were kids, they did dumb kid stuff – but they also really got into debate. And this wasn’t a few nerds – it was sometimes over 400 really cool kids. They started by debating each other and ended by beating some of the best high school debate teams out there, debate teams from privileged schools. What made them do this?"  - Libby Romfhin, "Off the Shelf: The Talent Code," July 28th https://changeplusmanagement.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/off-the-shelf-the-talent-code/)


Indeed, this is the magic of scholastic debate. Whether its the NYC Urban Debate League or any of our sister urban debate leagues across the nation - the urban debate mission - that all students are talented and should have access to one of the most rigorous academic programs. Whether they lose all their debate rounds or whether they win all their debate rounds, whether they debate 1 round or 1000 rounds... all students are Great Debaters. All students must learn and practice public speaking. All students must learn about current affairs and public policy around them. All students can dedicate a Saturday to the debate of current events in public. All students can be Great Researchers, Great Writers, Great Speakers.  Debate, competition, teammates, opponents, winning, losing, tournaments, travel, coaches - help to discover this talent. Some of our top debaters were labeled and stereotyped as "troublemakers," "learning deficiencies," "special education," etc - but they would overcome any of these labels, stereotypes and obstacles in debate. 


Libby compares scholastic debate to the book "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle. "Whether you’re coaching soccer or teaching a child to play the piano, writing a novel or trying to improve your golf swing, this revolutionary book shows you how to grow talent by tapping into a newly discovered brain mechanism. Drawing on cutting-edge neurology and firsthand research gathered on journeys to nine of the world’s talent hotbeds—from the baseball fields of the Caribbean to a classical-music academy in upstate New York—Coyle identifies the three key elements that will allow you to develop your gifts and optimize your performance in sports, art, music, math, or just about anything.


• Deep Practice. Everyone knows that practice is a key to success. What everyone doesn’t know is that specific kinds of practice can increase skill up to ten times faster than conventional practice.


• Ignition. We all need a little motivation to get started. But what separates truly high achievers from the rest of the pack? A higher level of commitment—call it passion—born out of our deepest unconscious desires and triggered by certain primal cues. Understanding how these signals work can help you ignite passion and catalyze skill development.


• Master Coaching. What are the secrets of the world’s most effective teachers, trainers, and coaches? Discover the four virtues that enable these “talent whisperers” to fuel passion, inspire deep practice, and bring out the best in their students.


These three elements work together within your brain to form myelin, a microscopic neural substance that adds vast amounts of speed and accuracy to your movements and thoughts. Scientists have discovered that myelin might just be the holy grail: the foundation of all forms of greatness, from Michelangelo’s to Michael Jordan’s. The good news about myelin is that it isn’t fixed at birth; to the contrary, it grows, and like anything that grows, it can be cultivated and nourished.

(Barnes and Nobles, click here


Interesting book. But for me the best evidence of debate and talent is when anyone walks into a school on a Saturday and observe every single classroom being used for debates (often multiple debates in a single classroom and cafeterias, gyms, and auditoriums also converted to debate spaces) for hundreds of students debating issues from North Korean policy to education policy.


That's talent. 


So thank you Libby for your incredible article on the benefits of debate and the urban debate league!

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