Monday, December 12, 2011

Pen Drills

"Alright, it's time for everyone's favorite opening debate activity!"

A collective groan rose from the crowd collectively. Begrudgingly, we reached into our debate bags and pulled out the first pen our begrudging fingers could find while the evil alumni coaches grinned evilly. "Alright, 'Toy Boat' as fast as you can. You got thirty seconds. Pens in your mouths. Ready? GO!"

I remember my first experience with pen drills. I thought it was hilarious and yet so awkward. What kind of a person recites tongue twisters while holding a writing utensil between his teeth? A debater, that's who.

A couple of years later, at my club's summer debate camp, my next encounter rolled along. Someone mentioned it was time for "pen drills," and I vaguely remembered that name, assuming it was a sort of flowing practice exercise. I was way off. The memories came flooding back as I positioned the pen inside my mouth, trying desperately to communicate something about a chick who had shells for sale at the beach. Or something.

So no, pen drills do not help you with flowing. In fact, they make it harder. Their purpose is E-Nun-Ci-A-Tion. I always feel it necessary to carefully dictate that word. You're welcome. I'm not convinced that pen drills are particularly helpful or if our alumni just like to see us look ridiculous, but I guess when I have to run a case investing in Russian Soldier Shoulder Holsters, all that practice will finally come in handy. Though I probably shouldn't have a pen in my mouth during the 1AC at a tournament. That would be bad. I told my debate partner he's not allowed to do that either. He would though. Except he's the 2A.

It's odd, but I guess a really prepared debater in a similar (toy) boat as myself (probably one heading to Unique New York) would choose a pen to bring to debate not based on its color or level of ink content, but rather taste and texture. The gel pens I have are awful. I try not to use those. They have a weird grip that is just not an appealing taste. I go for the thinner, cheaper ones. I advise you do the same. You gotta be comfortable while ranting against all those spider smiters.

So even though pen drills may be irksome to debaters now, I'm sure you'll thank your coach when you happen to holding a pen in your mouth and someone asks how your mom is and you reply through clenched teeth, "She had shoulder surgery."

Because we all know that's going to happen.


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