8th Graders Compete in Inaugural Speech Competition

On Wednesday, September 21, thirteen 8th graders presented persuasive speeches on outlandish proposals to the entire 8th-grade class, competing to win the inaugural Squealer Award for Orwellian Persuasion. In the weeks prior, every English class had held its own competition where each student wrote and presented a speech, the best of which was selected to continue on to the finals.

 According to 8th-grade English teacher Danny Alexander, this was the first year these speeches had been presented in Oglesby, though the 8th graders did do this project last year. Alexander says that the English teachers wanted the project to be fun, but also wanted to “make students less vulnerable to being manipulated through speech.”  

8th grader Elle Lanier was in attendance and says that there were some interesting proposals that made it fun to watch. For instance, Dylan Yu advocated for a casino in Clarkson, and Belle Paterson tried to convince the audience that teachers deserve to get LOPs (loss of privilege) along with students. Edward Rosenblath advised that we should all give our money to him and Ramey Hall promoted the idea that students would learn better if school was underwater. 

Students did have some suggestions for how the event could be improved. Lanier does wish that every class had gotten the same prompt. Some classes had to write a persuasive essay about things they wanted to change at Westminster, while other classes just had to write a persuasive speech. Eventual winner Edward Rosenblath also thinks that more students should have been able to share their speeches. He says that some very good speeches got cut out and believes that popularity also had a say in who went to the finals. However, Belle Patterson believes she was chosen in her class because of her good use of rhetorical devices and her relatable topic.  

Patterson says that even though she was nervous she loved getting to show what their class had been learning. Many other participants were nervous going into the competition, though they became more relaxed when they started talking. However, Dylan Yu was not nervous because he pretended he was speaking to no one. 

By far, the student’s favorite was Yu. Yu came up with his topic by thinking of a stupid idea, though he took inspiration from one of his teacher’s examples. Yu believes that he was chosen in his class because of how comedic his speech was. Lanier says that she likes Yu’s speech the best because of the balance of wit and facts he used. Patterson also likes his speech because of how well he acted it out (body language) and the comedic aspects of the speech. Yu enjoyed this project and even though he believed that he deserved to win, he understands that his speech was lacking the required amount of logical fallacies.  

The voting process was quick and effective. It consisted of all the teachers leaving the room and voting on who they thought was most compelling with their speech. To make voting fairer, the English faculty recused themselves. Alexander states that the English teachers stayed out of voting because they may have unfair opinions about who they wanted to win, for example, their own students.

Edward Rosenblath went home with the trophy, although he also thinks that Yu had the best speech. Rosenblath says he came up with his idea by thinking of the most, “outlandish, incomprehensible idea, that wasn’t indefensible.” However, he didn’t think he was going to win, believing his ideas were, “lukewarm, with little backing.”  Nevertheless, Rosenblath states that he likes this project because it is a cool idea and was more entertaining than the usual submit-a-paper-and-get-a-grade-back.