Oct 18, 2007

The Great Debaters

Did anybody else get stung by that great primary school joke: "If an English teacher's an English debater and a Science teacher's a Science debater, then what's a Maths Teacher?"

Cue barrels of laughs when the unsuspecting victim promptly replied "Maths Debater". Except when the unsuspecting victim was me, age 11, with no actual idea of why being a "Maths Debater" was a bad, or at the very least, funny thing. Once it was eventually explained to me, through interpretive gesturing, I made sure to commit that particular joke to memory to ensure I would never be the red-faced fool again.

It didn't help me a year later when one of the "cool" girls mentioned something called a "head job", and turned on me when it became obvious I had no idea what she was talking about. I tried to cover by pretending that I had been pretending not to know. I think I got away with it.

But enough of reminiscing about crude linguistic discoveries: my point is, John Howard and Kevin Rudd will be facing off this Sunday night in a Great Debate. An all-in cage match, no less, with the Ruddster set to be brought on by Jerry "The King" Lawlor yelling "Do you SMELL what the RUDD is cooking?" and the PM carried into the ring in a coffin, then raised from the dead, Undertaker-style. The Greens, however, won't be there - Bob Brown will apparently be holding his own debate against a sock puppet he calls "Little Johnny".*

Well, that's the kind of Great Debating I'd like to see on Sunday night. But somehow I don't think we're going to get that. In fact, I'd be surprised if we even got high school-level debating. And I know a bit about high school debating.

You see, I was Debating Captain come Year 12, after four exhausting years on the Circuit Debating, um, circuit. Many people consider Debating an extremely daggy high school past time, but damnit, we were hot shit - at least next to the chess club guys. But nerdism had little to do with my experience of debating. In senior years, our debates were "short prep", which meant you got the topic at 7pm, and started the debate at 8pm. Rock on. Me and my teammates James and Bree, with Alisha onboard on the odd occasion, would spend the first half hour farting about, cracking jokes and thinking up a good "theme" for the debate. As first and second speakers respectively, Jimmy and I would then divvy up the pertinent points, while Bree had a panic attack about what she would do as third speaker. The answer was of course, what she always did: madly summarise our team's points while simultaneously coming up with errors to throw back in our opponents' faces. All three of us would get up and proceed to slag off the opposite team, in the nicest way possible, of course. James was best at this - he was a natural charmer and would have all the parents in the audience going "Ooh, isn't he just a devil?"

I just wish I could tune in to Channel Nine next Sunday and see not the " worm", but Kevin Rudd in a striped blazer and tie pin. Doesn't he just LOOK like the kind of guy who'd pull out colour-coded palm cards? And as for Johnny, he'd be the one (cause there's always one) quietly scoffing at every point an opposing speaker tries to make, then getting busted by the adjudicator for making his attacks "too personal".

At least it would be fun to watch. I doubt a couple of hours of relentless carping on in the Parliament House Great Hall is going to turn too many of the plebs away from Andrew G's latest shocking haircut on Australian Idol. Hey there's a thought. Maybe instead of the "worm", we could have an SMS vote, a la Idol or Dancing with the Stars. The 55c text costs could be donated to charity, and either Johnny or Kevie would end up voted out, publicly shamed, with nought but a teary Marcia Hines to turn to for understanding.

See, I've got incisive political commentary sewn up. I still can't believe I wasn't asked to be on the panel of respected journalists who'll pepper the pollies with prickly propositions. Laurie Oaks could've asked about interest rates, David Speers about industrial relations, then I could've taken over with a "Brangelina - will it last?" corker. Then we'll see who's got their fingers on the pulse of this wide, brown land.

Oh, and if anyone could fill me in on what a "head job" actually is, I'd be ever so grateful.

*These references could mystify anyone who didn't regularly catch the then-WWF wrestling circa 1998-2002, before all the drug-related murder-suicides and stuff.


  1. You're a cracker. LOL.

    I kinda miss the debating days too, pity there's not really a lot of opportunities to do it as adults, at least in a formal way! ;-) Methinks it would be really good for improv and writing too.

  2. A head job is what I had about 12 months ago!!!

    It was not my first one. In fact it was the second one, seeing as the first one did not work when I tried it 10 years ago.

    I asked for some help and paid about $1500.00 for the job to be done, and when the fluids were drained.....and replaced I ran on all cylinders.

    It must be good to get a re-bore and a greasing, as performance has not been an issue since then.

    I never want to get another head job!! They cost too much and the car is off the raod for two or more weeks!

    Yes, another sad attempt at sad double entendre's (is that the plural of double entendre?)

  3. Noe on a serious note: I see good debating at the Woodford Folk Festival each year!

    Classic format and generally great work, albeit with a bit of a comic focus from some speakers.

  4. rastas - did you see the Great Debate last year i.e. when Fiona McGary got her gear off to prove her point on global warming? Man oh man. That's what I call commitment to your theme.

  5. Nat, it seems to me that you got screwed in debating. All of my debates were in school time, not at night which was me time! :)

    I used to like being first up on the affirmative. That way you didn't have to debate anything, all the points were yours and you didn't spend valuable time arguing about what the other person said.

    Having said that, I also liked being player 3 on the negative. You'd be the last person the judges heard and no one really expected you to come up with any new points because you could sum up your team's case and shoot down the other side.