March 30, 2022 (GBH News) – The end of March coincided with the end of Boston Debate League’s 2021-2022 season, its first featuring in-person competition since the pandemic forced it into the digital ether. It also saw the reappearance of in-person volunteer adjudicators, who are trained on the spot before taking their place upon the judgment seat, and then in the quiet of a library to complete their ballots, determine points and winners, and render their decisions.
That’s how I found myself in a cab on a Friday afternoon headed to Boston Latin Academy. Bounding up the school’s Old World stairs two at a time, I made my way to the library and checked in as a visitor to sit among a smattering of adults, varying in temperaments from nervous to genuinely curious to hype. We were all there to judge middle schoolers in a debate tournament, and we were all volunteers.
In its purest form, volunteer work plugs you into a community, and in this particular case, that means watching middle school kids from around the way argue how only middle schoolers can, with a deluge of breathless rhetoric, elocution be damned. But debate is a skill, and requires its own unique rules that many adults are clearly unfamiliar with.