[eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

J T jtedebate
Mon Aug 18 11:41:59 CDT 2008

I'm not sure pointing fingers at others activities is entirely productive....seems like the same behavior as posting the original YouTube video, or the recent attack video against Shanara posted.  Also, unless a coach was involved personally in these brawls, then the viedeos/argument would likely still fall on what T. Tate called "deaf ears".  Instead of pointing out how other activities act a fool, how about just explaining that that type of thing is the extreme exception, not the norm--it's the truth after all.

michael hester <uwgdebate at gmail.com> wrote: 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:
 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
 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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W. James Taylor ("JT")

Asst. Debate Coach
Emporia State University
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