[eDebate] Fall Out & The High School World

McNeil Debate mcneil.debate
Mon Aug 18 15:29:24 CDT 2008

I anticipated that my ability to be an effective communicator and
coach would be called into question.  I even preempted it, apparently
to little avail.  To everyone offering advice, thank you.  However, it
seems like my post is being received as a call for help.  It's not; my
purpose was plainly stated in the beginning of the post.  My goal was
to provide a perspective that I felt was underrepresented.

To address the ideas for help:  First, I have a squad handbook that
I'm quite proud of.  It includes a detailed section on substance
abuse, including cigarettes.  Second, my persuasive abilities in
regards to parents and adminstrators are fine; if they weren't, my
program wouldn't exist.  I'm more than aware of how to talk to
parents, and I'm not so braindead as to not defend an activity I've
chosen as a career.  Nowhere in my original post did I say that I had
no idea how to move forward, or how to talk to my parents, or that I
thought the video represented all of collegiate debate.  Third, my
agenda for my parent meeting containing a discussion of this event
won't change for two reasons.  First, I know that some parents already
know about this.  Second, I would rather that those in the dark hear
from me before seeing the video, because I trust my ability to provide
perspective much more than a news story or the video proper.

I find the reference to my geographic location problematic.  Texas
supports TWO state organizations in speech and debate, including the
oldest state organization of its kind.  Texas has 12 NFL Districts.
As a state, we will have over 100 high school debate tournaments this
season.  The success of Texas competitors in all forensic events
nationwide is nothing short of phenomenal.  If we are not the state
with the most programs, we're certainly close.  My first argument is
that what is happening in Texas programs can't be shooed away simply
because the number of kids that compete here is so large.

Sure, football is king.  There are certainly more violent brawls at
football games than debate tournaments.  My second argument, however,
is that it's a moot point.  My kid's parents don't care about football
games, because it's not where their kids are on the weekends.  They
care about debate tournaments.  Are reactionary parents in the wrong?
Are they being illogical?  Are they overinvolved?  Are they naive?  It
doesn't matter; their reactions are what they are, and high school
directors face a reality in that avoiding them is, as Dr. Glass puts
it, suicide.

I preempted this argument as well.  Again, labeling my parents as
reactionary or saying that I should be better at my job to persuade
them belies the point.  There are multiple high school directors
posting here that are telling you that it is a reality that dealing
with parents can be one of the toughest parts of our job.  Even for
those of us that consider the relationship with our students' parents
good, it can be incredibly difficult at times.

I don't understand where the offense is here.  For parents that are
already deeply invested in their kid's lives, ESPECIALLY those parents
that can be "reactionary" or "unrealistic," it seems like I control
the uniqueness as there's only a risk of those parents being put off
more by what has happened.  Seriously, would one of these types of
parents see the video or read a news article about the incident and
say, "I gotta get my kid to more tournaments!"?

I can and will do everything in my power to make sure that my parents
understand that what they read and see is not representative of high
school or college debate, because I know it's not.  But to argue that
Texas parents don't matter, or that I should just tell them to chill
out, suggests that there's little understanding of what it is that
some high school coaches have to deal with.

And that proves that the reason I wrote the letter in the first place
was valid, and in my opinion, necessary.  This viewpoint is not only
underrepresented, it's misunderstood.  I don't have any animosity
towards anyone that posts here, but what I'm reading is making it
clear that the fallout goes beyond what some people understand.


Postscript:  And then there's this.  I just got back from a staff
meeting.  One of the assistant band directors at my high school had
people in his office, circled around his computer, laughing.  I walked
in, and they were watching the video on Youtube.  One turned and
asked, "Hey the debate coach!  This is hilarious!  Have you seen
this?!"  On a campus where I fight for every bit of recognition and
funding for my kids that I can get, this is what our activity gets
boiled down to.  Can I persuade them otherwise?  Yes.  Can I point
them to other videos?  Yes.  Can I prove to them that that's not the
environment my kids compete in?  Yes.  Absent intervention by me,
however, none of that would have happened.  Crazy serendipity.  But
hey, I guess it doesn't matter.

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