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Sophomore Speeches: Taking one for the Team

By Brittany Bishop
Published: February 2010

Members of the Speech Team face more pressures and bias during the Sophomore Speech competition than people realize. Although the speech competition attempts to stay fair, the classroom stage of the competition can inhibit the best performers from moving on due to prejudice in their classmates’ votes.

Voting can easily be biased based on pre-existing opinions of the students’ performances rather than the quality of the actual speeches themselves. Since students can vote for whomever they like, they can vote unfairly without any proof of their actions.

Even teachers, as well as students, judge and joke about the Speech Team members involved in Sophomore Speeches. In one classroom, a teacher joked to the students that Speech kids shouldn’t win this year because they’re all robotic.

The students in the class involved in Speech admitted to feeling incredibly targeted since they work just as hard on the entire speech-creating process as the other students.

For the most part, sophomores have claimed that they judge Speech Team members more harshly than other students because of their experience in public speaking.

Sophomore Annie Humphrey explained that she overheard students saying that they did not want to vote for any students on Speech Team because they thought the Speech members had an unfair advantage.

Most students have a black and white outlook on the matter: the Speech Team members will undoubtedly do better than other students. This assumption, however, is not true. As has been proven by precedent, many students not on Speech Team advance further in the competition than Speech Team sophomores.

The unfortunate fact is that most students are not aware that most Speech Team categories are completely different than the Sophomore Speech format.

The general body of Speech members is familiar with memorization and performance, but there is only one category, Original Oratory, where the student has to write a speech to memorize and perform. Even so, the performer has different time restraints and topics.

Speech members also feel added pressure to the competition due to the expectations brought on by their peers. Sophomore and Speech Team member Jackie Lebovits says that students on the Speech Team are more comfortable speaking in front of others, but that is the only advantage.

“For me, I still get nervous because I’m not used to reciting my own words, having to memorize the piece, or even knowing everyone in the room’€which I find adds pressure, Lebovits said.

Another Speech Team member, sophomore Allie Haber, acknowledges the bias of her classmates as well. “I definitely feel like I’m being ranked on an entirely different scale just because my class knows I’m on Speech Team. They expect something better from me before I even open my mouth.

Speech Team is not an exclusive team that requires auditions. Anyone can join the team, and it is not fair for people to complain that Speech Team members have an advantage when these people could just as easily join the team.

According to sophomore Daniel Bender Stern, another Speech Team member, there are students who join sports teams, which could help them in Wellness, and students who are politically active, which could help them in classes involving current events.

“No one complains if a student on Math Team excels in math class or in Math Olympiads. We have just as much of an advantage as anyone who has ever performed [on stage or in public], Bender Stern said.

Every student creates an advantage by what he or she devotes his or her extracurricular activities to, and no one should face prejudice because of the interests he or she takes part in outside of class.

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