What do Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, Elizabeth Warren and Oprah Winfrey have in common? They each were on their high school debate teams. But, over the past few years something insidious has snuck into politics, and it has everything to do with the skills these women worked so hard to develop as teenagers.
Against Goliath is a tale of girls finding their voices in the era of Trump and raises crucial questions about gender (race and class) bias in America today. Like national politics, high school debate is male dominated — more males than females debate, reach finals, and win. For the past three years, we have followed as the girls of the Newton South team learn to become better debaters and confront bias head on. In this intensely competitive, demanding extracurricular activity, the novices, as well as the rest of the team, develop and refine their speaking and research skills, build their confidence, and debate in regional and national tournaments, while struggling with how to present themselves in a world dominated by boys. Most of the debaters are first generation Americans, with native languages like Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu or Ukrainian, who will likely become the next generation of leaders — doctors, lawyers, engineers, and politicians.
In a charged political climate when our future leaders are trained to alter appearance and personality to succeed, it is crucial that we question expectations and teach the importance of respectfully speaking up. Debate offers a model for understanding complexities of political issues and the value of research. Debate is also a cautionary tale — that winning is not always based on the logic of an argument. As these high school girl debaters remain determined to win despite the odds, they can inspire future leaders, both boys and girls, that equal rights and freedom of expression are worth fighting for, both within debate and beyond.
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Barbash and Small first met at the Flaherty Seminar in 2008 when Lisa was completing post-production on SWEETGRASS (co-created with Lucien Castaing Taylor) and Lucia was distributing THE AXE IN THE ATTIC (co-created with Ed Pincus). Despite their different approaches to filmmaking, Small and Barbash connected artistically and began supporting each others' endeavors until 2015 when they teamed up Against Goliath. Since the project's inception, Anna Graham has been an integral part of the team as sound recordist and associate editor.
Anna Graham - Sound Recordist, Associate Editor