The Great Debaters

I admit it, I am a complete movie snob. I just cannot sit down and waste time watching the majority of the box office crap that are passed off as blockbuster hits. I need a movie made with thought, and one that challenges the mind and spirit.

The Great Debaters does all that – and more. Denzel Washington and Forrest Whittaker take you through 124 mins of thought provoking, awe inspiring struggle and verbal jousting, with a keen undertone surrounding the deeper issues of racism , justice and civil disobedience running through it . The remarkable thing about the movie is that it is inspired by the true story of professor/poet Melvin Tolson, who inspired, coached and motivated a group of black students from an African American college in the deep south to become one the most  elite debate teams in America in the 1930’s.

The movie follows both the personal struggles and victories of the team, and its members, who fight to dispel the myths and beliefs regarding blacks in the south  during that time period. Oddly enough, I found myself thinking several times during the debate scenes, how far we’ve come, and yet how far we still have to go. The debates surround social issues of welfare, justice, law and civil disobedience. How remarkable that in nearly a century, we still debate the same issues, with the same arguments, with the same passion as those  who lived in that volatile era.

This is a must see, for everyone, and for every student in high school. The art and skill of debate- and it certainly is both an art and a valuable skill in life – has been lost for the most part. No longer in our schools do we teach the way to present either side of a debate, on any issue. We do not teach our children to find their voices and have confidence in their thoughts and beliefs. Most can spit the facts out, but ask them to reason with you and you’ll be left with an open mouthed, google eyed look of surprise. The spirit of debate remains alive, for the most part whittled down to its weakest form , existing in Internet forums where anonymity gives power and safety to those who have no confidence in their own views.

I could go on, but just go and rent the damn movie, and perhaps watch it with your teens or pre-teens. I believe this film has the power to change the course of a life.

Ahh, my life for a good debate…..