[eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

michael hester uwgdebate
Mon Aug 18 08:01:11 CDT 2008

you live in Texas, where high school football is KING.

when parents question whether they should allow their kid to debate based on
this incident, you might ask them whether they've checked YouTube for brawls
that occur in high school football. the search link reveals 21 clips:


given that this was a college incident (thus not taking place in high
school), you could broaden the search to "football brawls" - 636 clips


you can then tell them that, unlike any or most of those clips:

1) there were no punches thrown in this incident and no no was injured;
2) no charges were filed;
3) no laws were broken

you can then explain to them that, unlike college debate, high school debate
is much more highly regulated in terms of appropriate behavior.

i.e., i sympathize with your dilemma. however, i think that it's feasible to
construct a fairly strong case that what happened after (not in) one debate
(by people who weren't participants) at one college tournament should not be
the determining factor as to whether a parent should allow their child
debate in high school.


On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 12:21 AM, McNeil Debate <mcneil.debate at gmail.com>wrote:

> All:
> As a former college debater and an active member of the high school
> debate community, I've read this forum for years, and though several
> of the discussions have evoked laughter, reflection, or anger, none
> have ever made me want to jump into the fray and contribute.  I'm not
> sure if that's because I felt like my contribution wasn't unique, or I
> didn't want to get dragged into an unconstructive dialogue, or I
> didn't have the time, but I suspect it's a bit of all three.  Until
> today, I didn't even have an account, choosing to read everything as
> it is archived on ndtceda.com.  I cross the breach because I haven't
> seen my perspective expressed, and I feel at this point that it's at
> least a relevant part, albeit a small one, of the discussion.
> I run a high school program in Austin, Texas, and I debated, very
> unsuccessfully, for a brief period at what was then Southwest Texas
> State University in the late '90s.  I even had Bill as a critic on the
> Title VII topic, where my partner and I lost to possibly the best 1NC
> strategy ever ? a nine minute reader's theater featuring a children's
> picture book about worms.  This will be my sixth year as a high school
> teacher and a director.  My kids have had modest success; we do well
> at local tournaments and consider clearing at big tournaments like
> Greenhill a marked accomplishment for the program.  I'm fortunate
> enough to coach in an area where some of my students can afford
> national camps like SDI and Classic, which is to say that my students,
> and their families, are well aware that policy debate exists on the
> collegiate level.  To that end, I even have former students competing
> in college programs.
> I write because I feel like the perspective of a lot of high school
> coaches like myself is lost in this discussion.  I empathize with
> those who argue that the events that happened at CEDA shouldn't affect
> college budgets, and on the larger scale entire programs, and to a
> certain extent, I agree.  They shouldn't.  I find the arguments that
> the CEDA video and media coverage have the potential to affect the
> decision-making of those in power much more persuasive, however,
> because of what I am witnessing on my level.
> The thoughts of Ed Lee and others discussing the decision-making of
> administrators is eerily similar to another group of people that
> possesses a phenomenal amount of power at the high school level.  That
> group is the parents of my students.  When I read the emails of those
> that have posted here that try to shrug off the news coverage and
> subsequent fall out of this story as insignificant, it's unfathomable
> from my perspective.
> What is that perspective?  For a recent example, let's take the high
> school debate documentary, Resolved, that was widely released earlier
> this summer.  One parent asked me, "Are students really allowed to
> smoke at tournaments?  How in the world is that public high school
> student smoking in front of everyone?  Do coaches not say anything?
> Does that happen at tournaments that my kid goes to?"  Another parent
> was concerned with the "hazing" in the film (Sam's choice to not
> recognize Matt by his name and to constantly make fun of him) and the
> fact that there might actually be cussing at a high school debate
> tournament.
> Despite the fact that I live in the only truly blue community in the
> entire red sea that is Texas, I still have parents that are concerned
> with things like whether their students will have to advocate one
> political party or candidate over another or particular issues like
> the death penalty or abortion.  Three years ago a local team ran a
> Nazi CP, and a very serious discussion with a parent ensued where a
> kid's future on my squad was called into question.
> If the parents of my high school students, especially freshmen and
> sophomores, are concerned about a student smoking in a debate
> documentary, how do you think they would feel the first time they saw
> the now infamous video on Youtube?  Here's at least two reactions off
> the top of my head:  1.  There's no way in hell I'm going to drop
> thousands of dollars to send my child to a camp to be around people
> like that over the summer.  2.  This is what we're preparing for?  All
> of these lost weekends and hundreds of hours of research to
> participate in that kind of activity in college?  My kid won't be
> debating in college, period.
> I say all of this to say, that from the "mid-level" high school
> coach's perspective, what has happened in the way of the events at
> CEDA, the pursuant media coverage, and the discussion here on edebate,
> is not something that I can just brush aside.  The fall semester for
> my students begins in eight days; my first parent meeting will follow
> shortly thereafter.  One subject already on the agenda is the
> discussion of this incident.  Every year I have a conversation with
> parents about whether or not college forensics is appropriate for
> their child; what has happened has certainly made that discussion
> harder from my perspective.
> In traditional debate speak, I'm of the school that believes there are
> few impacts bigger than running people out of the activity, or in this
> case, never allowing them access in the first place.  I have no hard
> evidence yet that any of my debaters, or any other high school
> debaters, will not debate in college because of the events that have
> transpired.  I can say with some certainty, however, that the events
> that have happened will certainly weigh on the minds of high school
> students and their parents as they decide whether or not to join your
> community next year and in years to come.  If what has happened in the
> last week tips even one scale in favor of staying out of college
> debate, then a real tragedy has occurred.
> I sincerely hope that this adds something constructive to the
> discussion.  You can dismiss the parents of my students as being
> overly sensitive, or unique, or too involved, or argue that I'm not
> good at my job, or say that it's not the responsibility of the college
> community to think about impacts external to itself, but as I talk to
> more high school coaches, it seems like the impact at our level is
> going to be more widespread than one might think.  I attended a
> preseason luncheon for Austin area high school debate coaches this
> afternoon; the incident was brought up by a coach that doesn't even
> have policy teams and didn't debate in college.  The comments that
> ensued reinforce what I've said here.
> Thanks for your time.
> Matthew Murrell
> Director, Speech & Debate
> McNeil High School
> Austin, Texas
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