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Although much of the recent report of the Executive Committee of the Debating Council forms an excellent diagnosis of the ailments that have sapped the strength of debating at Harvard in recent years, it is doubtful whether the changes recommended are drastic enough to bring about a renaissance. For however vital the improvements in the Council's technique of management may be, the first and foremost task is to breathe the breath of life into the dead clay of general undergraduate interest.
Undoubtedly the decline and fall of debating at Harvard stems in no small part form the disarray and disorganization of the Council itself. Except for important radio debates and the large intercollegiate meetings, little attention has been paid by the officers in charge, and many second string debaters have been cut off in the bud and denied the chance to parade their wares at more modest encounters in and about the college. Coupled to this has been a lack of available coaching from experts in the trade, and thus many who would like to compete in minor and informal engagements have been altogether discouraged from trying.
The steps which the Council is taking lead in the right direction. A faculty advisory board might be persuaded to offer its services for coaching, assisting in deciding winners, and generally playing wet nurse to the organization; and the minor outside debates to be held before local groups in Cambridge and Boston should foster the interest of many hitherto kept out of the picture. Better distribution of prize money is also a magnet of potential drawing power.
But the experience of other colleges in the East points to the conclusion that debating, like so many things, begins at home, and not until the Council directs its appeal to the talent which lies now dormant in the various Houses can the Debating Council hope to plant deep roots in the soil of the college. It may be pleasant to suck the honeyed nectar of applause from local Junior Leagues from time to time, but only from audiences of Harvard students can come the support which the Council needs. It the Council should aim its rays at this untapped source, it would immeasurably improve its chance of growing to full stature and providing "an attractive and worthwhile extra-curricular activity".
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