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Sunday, February 15, 2009

For the Sake of Argument: Overheard at Mundt Debate

...and what about that Mundt curse?

At this weekend's Mundt Debate Tournament at Madison HS, I judged dramatic interp, oratory, Lincoln-Douglas, and policy. Here's a sampling of interesting things I heard:
  • One interper offered a stage rendition of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," complete with really creepy ventriloquized heartbeat sound. Neat trick!
  • An orator said she visited her grandparents in China last year. She was trying to concentrate on listening to their arguments about Communism, but she was distracted by all the fireworks, which apparently have only recently been re-legalized in the country of their birth. Freedom marches on... ;-)
  • The champion extemper won Mundt by explaining that China's stimulus program is all about energy and infrastructure, with a focus on connecting the outlying poverty-bound rural areas that haven't shared in the country's explosive economic growth. Brilliant speech!
  • One young man based his argument against an international court on Robert Bork's contention that "international law" is an illegitimate construct used by the leftist American intelligentsia "to attack the morality of its own government and society." He won my ballot (take that, Sibby!).
  • In response to an alternative energy plan that sought to strengthen the American economy and lessen the chance of international chaos and nuclear war, two young women argued that the harms of nuclear war are greatly exaggerated. These same two young women also argued that the affirmative plan would be a disaster because it would cause electric rates to rise 4%.
  • Madison's Rod Goeman dropped in to judge some Public Forum debate. Word in the tab room is that he couldn't say enough about how much fun he had judging... and how smart the kids he heard were!
Friday night at Mundt: future Marine Matthew Wollman and debate maven Jacqueline Adams, both MHS seniors, stand ready (o.k., sit ready) to address any emergency at the tournament tab table. Backing them up: John Wayne and his Winchester (gotta love a public school that permits displays of firearms—the spirit of the West still lives!). And hey—there's Brett Kearin back by the library desk running the show!
And then there is the dark side of Mundt Debate Tournament: the Mundt Curse. Whispered in the halls, even Googled
Friday night by a nervous Sioux Falls debater (or so says my SiteMeter), the Mundt Curse says that if you win at Mundt, you won't qualify for Nationals. Now I'm not fully clear on the folklore here: I'm not sure if the curse extends to all events or just Policy debate. I would welcome perspectives in the comment section here.

But let's look at a couple recent tournaments:
  • 2006 Mundt Policy Champs Emily Van Gerpen and Hannah Alsgaard of Yankton (I judged that final!) qualified for Nationals.
  • 2006 Mundt Lincoln-Douglas Champ Shana Conklin of Aberdeen Central qualified for Nats.
  • 2007 Mundt Policy Champs Josh Oppenheimer and Kyle Powers of Sioux Falls Lincoln qualified for Nats.
  • 2007 Mundt L-D Champ Alicia Enterman of Vermillion did not qualify for Nats.
No curse there, it appears. In ancient history, I won humor at Mundt in 1989 and qualified for Nats a couple weeks later. But I welcome deeper analysis of the tab sheets by my fellow South Dakota forensics folklorists.

Update 11:36 CST: Oh yeah, and that overwhelmed custodial staff who are "already tapped out with cleaning and locking up the high school and middle school Friday night"? They didn't sound overwhelmed to me. As a matter of fact, while the debates raged, MHS custodians had time to hit the gym and shoot some hoops. See? Hosting a debate tournament can be fun for everyone.


  1. Cory, if anyone feels America's youth are sliding down a slippery slope, they need to judge a few high school debate matches. I was thankful Brett Kearin asked me to judge and was very impressed with the students, their passion and intelligence.

    It embarasses me that all through high school and even as a former school board member, I don't recall ever attending a debate tourney. The research and communication tools these students are learning will serve them throughout their adults lives.

    Brett indicated we are paid for judging, so expect my check to be donated toward your Mundtster Award fund in the coming days.

  2. The fellow who argued against international law is just plain wrong, as was Borke. The Magna Carta was international law. Habeus Corpus flowed from as international law. Commerce would grind to a halt if it were not for international law; (it may well anyway due to rampant greed of the banksters-but that's another reason). Bush's apologists ran rampant over our rights, in part by ignoring or conveniently re-interpreting international law. Right wing judicial activism eroded and continue to erode the 1st, 4th, 7th & 8th amendment rights. International law apologists conveniently forget that for 200 years the US made significant, measurable contributions to international law (at least until the backsliding of the Bush era).

  3. I agree, Anon—Bork is right-wing crusade paranoia dressed up in good vocabulary. If he shows up in my comment section, I'll take him on. But in the round I judged, I had to work with the arguments presented, and the young man's opponent did not offer a sufficient rebuttal to the eventual winner's point.

  4. And Rod! Thanks for judging! I'm glad you found it a worthwhile experience. And thanks for supporting the award. The kids and coaches seemed to agree the Madville Mundtster is a nice way to recognize long-term achievement.

  5. Hey Corey, as for the so called "Mundt Curse" its a superstition that kids get to talk about because they are paranoid. The first time I remember hearing about it was in 99 I think and the student didn't think they were going to qual...and they did, so no curse! The debaters are a fantastic group of kids, but they have their superstitions just like everyone else.

    Any word on if the Mundt is going to exist next year?

  6. No firm word from anyone on Mundt's future. I hear various folks saying it will happen again, but I haven't heard anyone clarify who's going to do it. I've been called to a meeting Thursday to discuss Mundt with DSU's president Dr. Knowlton, but I have no idea what the agenda will be for that meeting.

  7. So when are we going to hear an update from your meeting last Thursday? Will there be a Mundt Debate tournament? Where will it be held?


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