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As the debating season is now fairly under way, and intercollegiate contests are beginning to loom up in the future, it seems to be a fitting time to consider the prospects for the year. It is of the utmost importance that the University shall assert once more its former superiority in debating. There are two defeats to be wiped out, and, in order to do it, and do it decisively, some very hard work will be required.
Harvard enjoyed a perfect record for a number of years, partly due, it must be admitted, to the fact that interest in debating was first aroused, and faculty instruction in that work first established here. Since then, however, interest has sprung up elsewhere, and other colleges have been transformed from weak to dangerous adversaries.
It is worth while then to inquire whether this increase in debating enthusiasm outside has been paralleled at Harvard by a like healthy expansion. Are we advancing or standing still? It is hard to give a satisfactory reply to this question. In a small way, perhaps progress is being made, but on the other hand this progress has been painfully slow. As far as the clubs are concerned-and they are the real gauges of undergraduate feeling-there may be a few more individuals engaged, but the work is generally speaking in much the same stage as it was several years ago. It is still left to a comparatively few enthusiasts. Unquestionably there is much talent wasted, and it is equally true that success in debating does not bring any considerable reward.
It seems to the CRIMSON that a portion, at least, of this apathy is due to the defects of the present club system. The clubs have undoubtedly devotion to the cause. Their members have done as much as individuals can be expected to do. Yet, somehow or other they have failed to draw out more than a small portion of the debating resources which might be at their disposal. In other words, they are not ruly representative, and it is not likely that they ever will be. For most men cannot hope to speak on a 'Varsity debate and feel no obligation to support the clubs. They debate for personal ends or not at all.
Now, would it not be possible to make debating appeal more both to the ambition and to the sense of duty of the average man by organizing class clubs? Each of the last three classes has in its Freshman year supported a club of large membership, and backed its debaters up with a fair amount of class recognition.
We wish, therefore, to suggest to the men who are working hardest for debating that they put it on a class footing with annual inter-class debates.
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