Mock trial: the superior organization to learn real-life skills

March 15, 2018 — by Katherine Zhou

There’s nothing like walking into the Santa Clara County courthouse, buttoning up your suit and putting on your game face to present your case for another round of trial.

This is mock trial, an amazingly pragmatic organization that teaches students to learn about the law, challenging them to think within the confines of the evidence presented to them in the real-life setting of a courtroom. Mock trial-ers develop a case throughout the school year based on a course packet and use the law to evaluate evidence.

But there is another organization on campus that has a rivalry with mock trial — and you have definitely heard of it. Their cult-like members are often adorned with unattractive team sweatshirts and an attitude that can be spotted from miles away. Many of you likely groan when you hear its name: speech and debate. Speech and debaters have bred quite a reputation around school for their over-competitive, fast-talking-with-no substance arrogant ways.

I have three major gripes against this organization, with examples of why mock trial is better.

1. As hyper-competitive individuals, speech and debaters definitely don’t know the definition of “team.” (But they would make one up when put on the spot: more on that later).

To be fair, mock trial is a selective team, with some students being offered understudy/JV positions. But unlike its rival organization, mock trial is truly a collaborative team effort. All of its members, including understudies, work together to build the case and help pick out pieces of evidence. The petty competition and rivalry among speech and debaters are nowhere to be found in mock trial.

Mock trial is an organization that helps students foster their belief in justice and working together toward a common goal (skills invaluable in the real world) while speech and debate teaches its competitors to knock each other down and get to the top. (In short, mock trial prepares students to become humanitarians, social workers, lawyers, while speech and debaters are prepared to be sleazy, fast-talking scammers.)

In any classroom, you are sure to spot a speech and debater from miles away, trying to assert their righteousness in every situation. Sure, some speech and debaters are very successful, but arrogance can stem from that. The lack of inclusivity and the cutthroat nature even within its own organization has garnered the club infamy on campus. Case in point: While I was writing this story, the speech and debaters who were trying to tell me that they had the better organization ended up arguing between themselves: about what event was more difficult.

While some people stand out and succeed, the rest are left to fend for themselves. When I was a freshmen, all of my female friends wanted to join speech and debate. Now as a senior, all of them have long quit, and only one senior girl is on the team. In contrast, mock trial’s sense of team loyalty, pragmatic skills and exciting cases and competitions have attracted almost all members to return every year.

2. Speech and debate competitions are usually judged by parents who often don’t understand the rules and rely on their personal bias. Each judge has complete liberty to use their own judgment as there are very few definite standards.

The National Speech and Debate Association hosts many types of competitions across the country nearly every weekend, so there are obviously many judges of lesser quality. Although this can teach the ordinary people who judge new topics, these people can often have difficulty pinpointing which is the better argument, leading to unpredictable results.

Of course, there is sometimes bias in mock trial, but at least the judges know the law and have expertise with handling cases.

3. My third and final point is also my most important: Many speech and debate events are not useful for real life and can actually foster negative habits.

For example, for the speech event Dramatic Interpretation, where you perform another’s work dramatically, when will you be ever be put in a situation where you need to perform another person’s written speech again? (Unless you are Melania Trump). If you really want to practice acting, you should join drama.

And for debate: Being able to make up facts during competition, without having a reference point such as a case packet may prepare you for a career as a lying politician, but is not a positive trait someone should learn.

Another “talent” learned, which I think is utterly ridiculous, is something called “spreading.” Speech and debaters often spew out words at a lightning fast pace that is incomprehensible to the untrained ear, so they can fit in as much of their argument in the short amount of time. Why would you ever, ever need to be able to speed-talk in real life?

As the saying goes around campus, “Speech and debate teaches you how to B.S.” or my personal favorite, “Speech and debate teaches you nothing.”

Here's a summary for all you crazy S&D speed-readers that skimmed to the end: Mock trial teaches students more practical skills — learning to handle the law and work with evidence instead of being able to make up arguments that sound believable.

There’s nothing like walking into the Santa Clara County courthouse, buttoning up your suit and putting on your game face to present your case for another round of trial.

This is mock trial, an amazingly pragmatic organization that teaches students to learn about the law, challenging them to think within the confines of the evidence presented to them in the real-life setting of a courtroom. Mock trial-ers develop a case throughout the school year based on a course packet and use the law to evaluate evidence.

But there is another organization on campus that has a rivalry with mock trial — and you have definitely heard of it. Their cult-like members are often adorned with unattractive team sweatshirts and an attitude that can be spotted from miles away. Many of you likely groan when you hear its name: speech and debate. Speech and debaters have bred quite a reputation around school for their over-competitive, fast-talking-with-no substance arrogant ways.

I have three major gripes against this organization, with examples of why mock trial is better.

1. As hyper-competitive individuals, speech and debaters definitely don’t know the definition of “team.” (But they would make one up when put on the spot: more on that later).

To be fair, mock trial is a selective team, with some students being offered understudy/JV positions. But unlike its rival organization, mock trial is truly a collaborative team effort. All of its members, including understudies, work together to build the case and help pick out pieces of evidence. The petty competition and rivalry among speech and debaters are nowhere to be found in mock trial.

Mock trial is an organization that helps students foster their belief in justice and working together toward a common goal (skills invaluable in the real world) while speech and debate teaches its competitors to knock each other down and get to the top. (In short, mock trial prepares students to become humanitarians, social workers, lawyers, while speech and debaters are prepared to be sleazy, fast-talking scammers.)

In any classroom, you are sure to spot a speech and debater from miles away, trying to assert their righteousness in every situation. Sure, some speech and debaters are very successful, but arrogance can stem from that. The lack of inclusivity and the cutthroat nature even within its own organization has garnered the club infamy on campus. Case in point: While I was writing this story, the speech and debaters who were trying to tell me that they had the better organization ended up arguing between themselves: about what event was more difficult.

While some people stand out and succeed, the rest are left to fend for themselves. When I was a freshmen, all of my female friends wanted to join speech and debate. Now as a senior, all of them have long quit, and only one senior girl is on the team. In contrast, mock trial’s sense of team loyalty, pragmatic skills and exciting cases and competitions have attracted almost all members to return every year.

2. Speech and debate competitions are usually judged by parents who often don’t understand the rules and rely on their personal bias. Each judge has complete liberty to use their own judgment as there are very few definite standards.

The National Speech and Debate Association hosts many types of competitions across the country nearly every weekend, so there are obviously many judges of lesser quality. Although this can teach the ordinary people who judge new topics, these people can often have difficulty pinpointing which is the better argument, leading to unpredictable results.

Of course, there is sometimes bias in mock trial, but at least the judges know the law and have expertise with handling cases.

3. My third and final point is also my most important: Many speech and debate events are not useful for real life and can actually foster negative habits.

For example, for the speech event Dramatic Interpretation, where you perform another’s work dramatically, when will you be ever be put in a situation where you need to perform another person’s written speech again? (Unless you are Melania Trump). If you really want to practice acting, you should join drama.

And for debate: Being able to make up facts during competition, without having a reference point such as a case packet may prepare you for a career as a lying politician, but is not a positive trait someone should learn.

Another “talent” learned, which I think is utterly ridiculous, is something called “spreading.” Speech and debaters often spew out words at a lightning fast pace that is incomprehensible to the untrained ear, so they can fit in as much of their argument in the short amount of time. Why would you ever, ever need to be able to speed-talk in real life?

As the saying goes around campus, “Speech and debate teaches you how to B.S.” or my personal favorite, “Speech and debate teaches you nothing.”

Here's a summary for all you crazy S&D speed-readers that skimmed to the end: Mock trial teaches students more practical skills — learning to handle the law and work with evidence instead of being able to make up arguments that sound believable.

 

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