Proceedings of the
First Diversity Recruitment and
Retention in Debate Ideafest
Edited by Gordon R. Mitchell
University of Pittsburgh
Published by Office of the Dean
University of Pittsburgh
Ideafest convened at
June 10-11, 1997
Therrell High School Debate Video
Rasheed Moss, Krsna Tibbs, Larry Moss, Eric Girault
Editor's note: After Melissa's introduction, Ideafest participants were next treated to a presentation of a videotape featuring Larry Moss, debate coach at Therrell HS (Atlanta), asking questions to three Therrell debaters, Eric Girault, Rasheed Moss, and Krsna Tibbs. Larry asked a series of wide-ranging questions about the debaters' experiences in learning the art of debate, how debate changed their perspectives on the world of school and beyond, the image of debate at Therrell, reflections on the past season, and future goals. Eric, Rasheed and Krsna fielded all questions with style and aplomb, providing vivid descriptions of the debate experience at Therrell. The video opens with Eric, Rasheed and Krsna facing the camera standing, while taking turns delivering snippets of debate speeches.
Eric Girault: [Simulating a policy debate speech at approx. 200 words per minute] OK, judge, this was an extremely close round, but I'm going to make it extremely easy because the negative has to win because of inherency. The baby boom population is causing an influx of people into prisons and jails.
Rasheed Moss: [Simulated speech] All right judge, we say they widen the net of social control. We say that judges and juries will have increased available options and therefore sentence people who would have otherwise been released if higher sentences were the only option.
Krsna Tibbs: [Simulated speech] All right judge, we know that prison overcrowding is one of the most serious problems facing this nation. Since we won all of our arguments, you must vote affirmative.
Rasheed Moss: [Simulated speech] All right, so we win on net widening, we win on the impact to net widening, we win on baby boom and states taking action; we win negative.
Eric Girault: [Simulated speech] Judge, we define the word nationwide. Nationwide means stretching from one end to the other. There are 21 states that don't have overcrowding problems, therefore it cannot be a nationwide problem.
Larry Moss: [Asking questions off-camera to Therrell debaters seated at table] All right gentlemen, how about introducing yourselves to your public.
Rasheed Moss: My name is Rasheed Moss. I'm a sophomore here at Therrell Comprehensive High School, and I'm a varsity debater.
Eric Girault: My name is Eric Girault. I'm a junior at Therrell High School, and I'm also a varsity debater.
Krsna Tibbs: My name is Krsna Tibbs. I'm a sophomore at Therrell High School, and I'm also a varsity debater.
Larry Moss: Gentlemen, you had a great deal of success on the debate circuit this year. How do you feel about your year?
Rasheed Moss: Well, I feel it was amazing, as well as predictable. I figured that during our hard work, we were going to have a great deal of success this year. It finally paid off.
Eric Girault: I think that was a very key term that Rasheed used, and that was hard work. Indeed, we did do a lot of hard work. There were a lot of hard hours. After school, when everyone else was playing basketball, the days was hot, we was in here, doing research and working on debate. I feel absolutely great. I feel a sense of achievement.
Krsna Tibbs: I agree with Rasheed and Eric. I believe our success was the direct result of our hard work and determination.
Larry Moss: OK, let me take you back, Rasheed, you and Krsna, two years ago, first tournament ever for a Therrell High School team. We went out to Macintosh, you got involved in debate, I believe you lost all four rounds. When you think back on that experience, how did that leave you feeling when we walked out and you discovered that we had not won any rounds?
Rasheed Moss: Well I felt really bad. I had the feeling during the debate that I had won, and then to find out that I had not won anything, that was a bad feeling.
Larry Moss: Yeah, you guys told me you had won all four rounds.
Krsna Tibbs: We thought we had [won], but we found out differently.
Larry Moss: You found out differently. So when we started to work this past year, did you bring that experience with you?
Rasheed Moss: Sure did. That experience resulted from basically not really preparing, and not really working. We knew that this year, we were going to have to work, and have to prepare, if we wanted to win. And we did that.
Larry Moss: You worked much harder.
Rasheed Moss: Right.
Larry Moss: Eric, I believe your first debate experience was at Westminster, right?
Eric Girault: Yes, that's right.
Larry Moss: Were you a little intimidated starting your debate career at Westminster?
Eric Girault: To tell you the truth, I was extremely intimidated. There was hundreds of students everywhere, it was an extremely huge campus, I saw students getting off the bus with suitcases and briefcases full of information, and I believe we might have had one briefcase, and I was just intimidated. I knew that the minute we walked in there, we were going to get blown out. But we saw that that wasn't true, because we were the ones that ended up taking names, taking no prisoners.
Larry Moss: OK, you and Rasheed ended up with what, a 4-1 record?
Eric Girault: Yeah, that's correct.
Larry Moss: How did you feel coming out of Westminster?
Eric Girault / Rasheed Moss: [together] Great.
Eric Girault: We felt like all the hard work that we had done previously had paid off.
Rasheed Moss: And actually, that was one of my first achievements, my first big achievement.
Eric Girault: And it was also giving me a sense of confidence, now. I felt that I had debated with some of the best, so I knew that I could debate with some of the best in the future, and anytime, I was ready.
Larry Moss: So, OK, we've had an enormously successful year. I believe that at one point, Eric, you and Rasheed teamed together and went 18-0. We won the 7 Quad-A Championship, we placed sixth in the state. How do you explain such enormous success so early in the game, because we're all basically novices, this is basically our first year. How do you explain that kind of success?
Eric Girault: I would have to say an awful lot of talent. An awful lot of hard work.
Krsna Tibbs: Determination.
Eric Girault: Determination, exactly. Self-confidence. Preparation. We prepared in every aspect, every way we possibly could.
Larry Moss: Could it be, do you think that it may be attributable to the inspiration and motivation of a brilliant coach?
Rasheed Moss, Eric Girault, Krsna Tibbs: [After huddling together briefly to consult] No.
Larry Moss: OK, we'll come back to that question a little later. OK, let's talk about debate tournaments a little bit, generally speaking. You guys walk into debate tournaments and you make me sick. You swagger in, you saunter in, and you kind of have an attitude. Tell me what that's about.
Eric Girault: I think that attitude comes from the fact that we've been to so many debates where people didn't even know our name, they pronounced it "Terrell" and "Thurell," and we were sick and tired of it. So when we started winning, we started letting people know that we was here, and we was here to stay. We can come in with a certain air of confidence.
Larry Moss: I remember hearing from a debate coach that his team walked in and saw Therrell there and they panicked. You guys try to intimidate other teams, don't you?
Rasheed Moss: Yeah, we had one team that walked out of the debate when we were debating them. It gave us a good feeling, highness in a way, but I guess there's an aura that we present that we want to keep on presenting.
Larry Moss: Let me ask you something else. I've noticed that a lot of the other teams, especially the black kids who debate throughout the state, hold you in a kind of high level of esteem, you have a reputation. I've noticed that they like to come up and talk to you. How does that make you feel?
Eric Girault: Well, with African-American students that look at me as kind of a role model, like I'm doing something good, it makes me feel great. When you go to these debates, there's such a low percentage of African-American debaters. I would think that in the future, it would be a good idea to get more African-American students involved in the debate process, because it is an excellent academic activity.
Larry Moss: OK, you talk about role models. I happen to know that you got suspended for fighting, is that right Eric?
Eric Girault: Yes it is.
Larry Moss: Rasheed, a couple of times you were in in-school suspension, before debate?
Rasheed Moss: Right.
Larry Moss: How has debate impacted your behavior?
Eric Girault: It's definitely changed the way I've behaved. I have a certain image to protect. I know I'm doing something for the school, and I know that now, I'm sort of a school leader, so I can't just go around and act any way I want. I have to carry myself with a certain amount of respect, and I think that has a tremendous difference on the way that I do act in everyday life.
Rasheed Moss: It's the same with me. Winning debates, and so forth, boosted my image. Last year, when I used to fight and get in-school, or whatever, I had an image for being popular for being bad. But this year, when I go out and start to win things, come back with the image of winning in academic sports, there's a certain amount of prestige that comes from that, and I'd like to keep that prestige as well.
Larry Moss: In that same vein, I know that each one of you failed at least one course before you started debating. How has debating impacted on your schoolwork, your academic work?
Rasheed Moss: I'd like to answer that question right there. Last year I had a 1.7. This year, after I debated, I had a feeling of success. I had the feeling that I could achieve something, and I brought my grade point average up to a 3.2. That's really a phenomenal success, considering how low I was last year.
Eric Girault: I'd like to say that last year, I had three F's, and it was terrible, I had F's, D's and C's on my report card. This year, I had nothing but A's and B's, and I'm on the honor roll. So I think that debate teaches you research skills, thinking skills, discipline. And I think that debate has got to be the number one curricular activity that exists.
Krsna Tibbs: I think debate really develops your thinking skills, and your forensics skills, and that can really help you a lot in class.
Larry Moss: What would you say to people who say that all of the time that you spend taking the various challenges in order to debate well, take away from what you need to be doing in terms of the academic career?
Eric Girault: Take current events, for instance. You get such a wide scope of what's going on in the world, through debate. You learn about all different areas, and all different aspects of life. So I would say that while you're studying for debate, in essence you're studying for all your classes.
Rasheed Moss: I mean, when you look at your classes, you have English, you learn speaking skills [in debate], you learn how to speak the language well. World History, you learn about your history [in debate], like the baby boom population, those things. So I think that debate is directly related to all your other classes and it helps you in all of your classes.
Eric Girault: Definitely. Absolutely right.
Larry Moss: OK, let's talk about image a little bit. I noticed you all have those spiffy new jackets on, they look like lettermen's jackets, much like the football jackets that people have. What's been the reaction around the school to you all as you begin to wear your jackets and show your credentials as debaters?
Eric Girault: Everyone wants to find out how to get a jacket. They want to wear it, they want to join the debate team, just so they can get a jacket.
Rasheed Moss: And there's normally a certain amount of jealousy, but not that much. Most of the people respect what we're trying to do; they respect what we are doing. And most people want to become involved in it.
Larry Moss: What about the image of debaters as wimps or nerds?
Eric Girault: I don't think that we carry that type of image.
Larry Moss: Well that's because you guys fight all the time.
Rasheed Moss: I think that we defy that image, actually, because we prove that you can have a social life and debate; they can coexist. So that I feel you can be smart, have fun, and do all of that together.
Larry Moss: OK, I want to bring up something that we discussed a little bit when we were on the debate circuit. You all have a tendency to be, in my parlance, a little bizarre in the way you dress, the way you cut your eyebrows and your hair, and all that kind of stuff. Now we know that when we go out debating, that debate tends to be a very conservative activity. How did you manage to take your personal image, with the hair, and the earrings, and all of this stuff, and take that out and debate and do well? How do you do those two things at the same time?
Eric Girault: I would say that you have to be yourself. If you have a certain hairstyle, or dress code that you wear, you can do it, just as long as when you get into the debate, you perform, and you perform at the level that people expect. And we even go beyond that level. We perform at another level. I think that pretty much takes care of any fashions or hairstyles that we might wear.
Rasheed Moss: Basically, when I go into a debate, I might go looking strange, with cut eyebrows or whatever. But what I do when I get into a debate is speak to the people so they look beyond what I look like and actually listen to what I'm saying.
Larry Moss: Krsna, you're sort of a lamb thrown in with these two wild men here on the circuit. How do you react to being with these two wild people out on the debate circuit when we have to go and stay together? How have they influenced you, if at all?
Krsna Tibbs: Well, they're both great speakers, and have won several awards, and this has helped me in my debate career as well.
Larry Moss: They're not corrupting you?
Krsna Tibbs: Uh, no.
Larry Moss: You're not going to wear an earring next year?
Krsna Tibbs: I don't know.
Larry Moss: You don't know; OK. Let me ask you another question that has to do with debate. I understand that out on the debate circuit, statewide, you have a sort of a rep[utation], people know who you are now, and you have certain nicknames that the folks on the debate circuit have for you. What are those nicknames?
Eric Girault and Rasheed Moss: [together] Batman and Robin.
Larry Moss: Batman and Robin.
Krsna Tibbs: And Special Ed.
Larry Moss: And Special Ed. How do you feel about those [nicknames]?
Rasheed Moss: Well, I like those [nicknames], because it's a way of letting people know that you know who you are. That's the deal, when they give you nicknames and everything.
Eric Girault: They know you exist.
Larry Moss: When we began the year, I told all of you that you are going to have to mature in order for us to do well out on the circuit, when we go to places like Raven County and White County and Lee County, and all these various other stops where we debate. How has debate helped you mature?
Rasheed Moss: [Debate] has helped me mature considerably. I have a tendency to have a quick temper and so forth, you have to learn how to control your temper, you have to learn that sometimes, you're going to get bad falls, and you're going to get good times and bad times, and they all go together. You just have to learn how to deal with those bad times. I think that debate has, in fact, taught me that.
Eric Girault: I would like to say that there are two ways that debate has helped me mature. One is a sense of responsibility. I know what I have to do, when I have to do it, and I know I have to have preparation, or else I won't be any good when I go in there.
Rasheed Moss: I think for me, it's something for embarrassment. At first, I never cared about being embarrassed about anything that I do. But now everything I do, I like to be good. And debate's made it that way, by giving me an image of good in everything I do, to try and succeed at everything I do.
Krsna Tibbs: We must live up to our image of excellence that we developed this year.
Eric Girault: Debate teaches you that there's never one single right way to do anything. You have to first consider everyone else's views, they way that they look at things, before you can make a decision on anything.
Larry Moss: OK, let me ask again, could you attribute your maturity this year to the influence of a mature, dynamic, and brilliant coach?
Rasheed Moss, Eric Girault, Krsna Tibbs: Yes.
Larry Moss: That's a trick answer.
Rasheed Moss: No, because in a way, our coach has taught us that when we go to these tournaments, and we get bad deals, we get raw deals [in decisions], he tells us to just let it go, and to learn that sometimes, you're going to get downfalls, but to not make a big deal about it, because there's always upswings and pitfalls, but you just have to take them as they come.
Eric Girault: Also, our coach has a certain way of being able to play with us, to have a good time, and letting us know that we're all friends, but when we start to cut up a little too much, he'll keep us in line.
Krsna Tibbs: And he motivates us a lot.
Larry Moss: That's a trick answer. You guys are trying to embarrass me. Let me do this. Next year, we won't sneak up on anybody. Everybody knows who Therrell debate is. There are people who will be looking for us next year; they'll be looking to challenge us next year. For those people who would dare to talk about defeating Therrell's debate team next year, what would you say to them?
[The group stands in unison]
Eric Girault: Therrell debaters ...
[Krsna Tibbs and Rasheed Moss turn their backs to the camera to show off the insignia sewn on the back of their debate jackets]
Eric Girault: Are taking no prisoners.
[Camera pans in on Therrell Debate insignias as school song is played].
[end of video].