[eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

Mariam Willis razianwillis
Mon Aug 18 12:33:09 CDT 2008

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for this post.  Certainly very relevant and worth addressing for many.

I am currently the Co-director of Debate at Appalachian
State University and am a former HS English teacher.

I have a few suggestions for you.

1) Do not put the 'incident' on the agenda of your parent
meeting.  Do not address it in any situation
unless or until it is actually introduced to the conversation by someone else,
and then, do not permit that discussion to become the focus.  Keep it light.  Only address questions as they are
posed.  There's a good chance parents
won't bring it up.  Especially after the
next two weeks, we will all have moved onto some other sensational media spin
and kids will be back to school--a host of new chaos.

2) Do address appropriate behavior on your team conduct
through a contract or something similar. 
You may be able to replicate Tuna Snider's post concerning his response
to administrative inquiries.

3) Explicitly address cigarette smoking and drug use in your
team conduct.  We deal with students of
age who can choose to smoke or drink alcohol, but still attempt to create a
culture that promotes health and wellness, especially at tournaments.  Our syllabus reads:

As a member of the App State Forensic
Team, you are a representing the University and the best of its intellectual
life. Therefore, the following code of conduct reflects minimum behavioral
expectations of team members when traveling to tournaments or participating in
civic or service activities:

1. Team members will dress appropriately as to present themselves in a
professional and courteous manner.

2. There will be absolutely NO alcohol or illegal drug use, or the
suspicion of such, during or prior to tournament, civic or service activities.

3. We, the program directors, discourage the use of tobacco products.

4. There will be no crude or ill mannered comments or conversation at
meetings, during tournaments, or civic and service activities.  Students are to conduct themselves with
courtesy and to practice professionalism at all times.

5. We, the program directors, discourage the use of foul language at
meetings, during tournaments, civic or service activities.


In the event that a student breaches
the code of conduct, s/he will receive a written warning to be kept on
file.  On the second written warning
during the academic year, we, the program directors, may remove the student
from the traveling team and/or participation with the program indefinitely.


4) All programs can secure their reputation within their
institutions by hosting public debates, conversation forums, or philosophical
conversation groups that showcase the best of what we all do and easily connects
to the community at large.  Even better,
have your students organize these.  Their
parents will be very proud, as will your administrators.  If you would like more information about how
to easily do this, send me a message.

5) Participation on our team is a privilege, not a
right.  We invest a lot of time in each
other.  Protect other productive team
members, by enforcing your team conduct and consequences.  This will show parents and administrators
that you are good for you students, and create/maintain your positive team

6) We cannot teach that which we do not know.  If you are aware that reactive behavior or
cigarette, alcohol, or drug use is a problem for you; get help with it before
it brings your program down. 
Fundamentally, maintaining _your_ team and _your_ budget will be about
your presence and relationships where you are.


Mariam Razian Willis
Appalachian State University
Communication Department
Co-Director of Debate
willismr at appstate.edu
828-262-7527 (office)

From: tara_l_tate at hotmail.com
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 10:33:52 -0500
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

Disclaimer:  I do not speak for the organization that I am President of.   The members of that organization can speak for themselves.


I do not coach in state where football is king.  Immodestly stated, I coach in the most well-supported public school district for debate in the country and I am still having to answer administration emails about the incident.  My fear is what is happening to the programs that are not existing in a world where "debate is king."  


The problem is not simply whether I can mount a strong case for debate in lieu of the youtube video.  Your arguments, of course, assume a world of extremely rational individuals who allow for the case for debate to be constructed at all.  More times than not, that is not the audience that we are dealing with.  Fortunately, the Glenbrook administration and Glenbrook parents are sold on the values of debate.  I probably am in the minority in regards to the high school community.    Most parents/administrators don't take the time to fully understand debate.    My "very persuasive" case can fall on deaf ears.  Ask the hundreds of high school programs that are cut each year for much more shallow rationales than this.


My next question, simply, is why should I have to fight to construct a case for debate?  On top of justifying my budget, time away from school, long hours, etc. that I am constantly having to do, why do I now have to add this to my plate of one more criticism of debate that I have to answer?  I should not have to.  This job is hard enough without having to constantly "cover" for my colleagues whether it is the youtube video or poor judgment in edebate posts or inappropriate behavior by judges at tournaments.  We make "selling debate" much harder on ourselves than we have to.


Mike, I know you well enough to know that you are sympathetic and I don't find your response to be out of line at all.  I just wish that high school coaches had the audience that would rationally listen to what you suggest...most don't.  As for Mr. Sanchez' post, there is a huge difference between Calum's "pollution good" lecture and the youtube video.  Bluntly put, I don't think I will be calling on you to rationalize the benefits of high school debate to my administration or parents any time soon...


Respectfully and with an open mind to the dialogue,

Tara Tate

GBS Debate

Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 09:01:11 -0400
From: uwgdebate at gmail.com
To: mcneil.debate at gmail.com; edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

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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