[Ndca-l] Issues concerning the high school community

Jim Menick jim.menick
Tue Dec 17 20:20:13 EST 2013

While putting this in the listserv is fine, I always find that kind of
communication ephemeral. It's hard to find later on, and if it's important,
like this, that's a shame. So I'll cross-post it and any comments to the
main discussion page of the debatecoaches.org site.

jimmenick.com: Debate, books, and various nonsense

On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 6:33 PM, Timmons, Aaron <timmonsa at greenhill.org>wrote:

> Colleagues,
> I have read with great interest, and in some cases varying modicums of
> concern, about what is going on in the college community in the last
> several months. Many on all sides of the argumentative spectrum in college,
> as well as the high school community, have asked me my opinion on many of
> the controversies that seem to embroil the college community. While this is
> not the forum to share that perspective (if you ask I will tell you!)  I DO
> very much feel that it is time for the HIGH SCHOOL community to get out in
> front on some of the issues and have open discussions about them. Based on
> personal observation as well as talking with others, the issues I see in
> college that are currently impacting the high school debate landscape but
> will only increase given the trends that I see happening. While I have had
> individual conversations with folks, I see this as a starting point to
> broader conversation among a larger group concerned about the high school
> landscape.
> A few ?meta? thoughts I believe to be true:
> 1st ? High School students are developmentally, and less socially mature
> than college students. Things done in rounds in college, may not be (read:
> are not from my view) as developmentally appropriate for high school
> students. I believe that while debate is a competitive, albeit educational
> game, it is an extension of the classroom. Judges serve the role as ethical
> educators whose role is to serve the educational needs of ALL students.
> Coaches need to understand, and use discretion in the form, as well as
> content, in the arguments their students make as high school debaters. I
> agree I am not the argument or language police. My only point is that as a
> community, soul searching needs to occur to allow alternative, diverse
> voices from different social locations but still be mindful of who we are
> charged to serve; the students (most of whom are minors). The question for
> me is ?would I allow what is being done in this debate in either form or
> content, to occur in a classroom on my campus?? If the answer is yes, go
> for it. If the answer is no, that might tell you something. Understand,
> this NOT the beginnings of a conversation to ban arguments, rather I view
> it as a conversation and potential sounding board to help us all formulate
> how (and what) we personally think about these issues.
> 2nd ? The landscape of debate has changed dramatically in the last 10 to
> 15 years. Due a variety of factors, debate has likely never been more
> diverse. The dress, style (dare I say method of swag), argument content,
> AND form of presentation have diversified as well. Coaches and judges need
> to be mindful of that fact and treat all students, regardless of social
> location, with respect. To be honest I don?t think the community writ large
> knew what was happening and was (and maybe still are), unprepared for the
> increasingly diverse voices that occupy the debate space.
> 3rd ? Given the changes in the argument set, and differing styles we are
> seeing, as consumers we need to demand that workshops diversify their
> curriculum to give our students better skill sets to engage ?performative?
> arguments,  beyond framework. The days of ?here is how you answer the K? in
> a two hour lecture, combined with the perfunctory ?cap k? produced as a
> throwaway, should be over. At camps that errs on the side of ?progressive?,
> perhaps sharing with students that not all folks that run plans are ?evil?
> might be in order. More diverse camp curriculum HAS to be part of the high
> school camp scene. We need to all work on helping each other,  actually
> engage each other.  As importantly, Black and Brown students deserve to see
> more workshop staff of color. It was shocking to me last year to see how
> many debaters of color who had success at majors in college, had to search
> to find jobs at ?mainstream? camps last summer. Just saying?
> Enough of my thoughts. A few questions for the community:
> 1st ? Do we think any college conversations will have a direct impact on
> the Tournament of Champions? If so, I think this conversation needs to
> occur in a way, and in a timely manner, to do proactive things to address
> all potential concerns from all parties.
> 2nd ? Is there a need to discuss Mutual Preference Judging and, in its
> current form, how it creates a ?permanent underclass? of judges, and
> negates the need for many of our students (on all places in the
> argumentative spectrum) to adapt, in addition to leaving women and folks of
> color ?on the outside looking in? of elim panels at many events?
> 3rd ? Is there a need to have a Counsel of Tournament Directors at the
> high school levels to discuss ?best practices?? If this were to occur I see
> broad groups, from diverse backgrounds, contributing to what ?best
> practices? actually were.
> 4th - Does the NFL/NDCA/TOC need to have a statement/policy regarding
> harassment that all tournaments have an option to adopt/pledge to follow?
> 5th ? Is there ANY interest in having a conference to work through the
> issues and have sessions to learn from each other? Locations including
> Dallas, Las Vegas, and the time between the CEDA and the NDT/the first day
> or so of the NDT in Indiana, have been thrown out as options. Let?s face
> it, there was a time coaches would talk at tournaments either at coaches?
> functions or between debates. That doesn?t happen anymore.   It looks like
> a forced adult play date of sorts might be in order.
> I know this covers lots of issues. Many of you may want to talk about
> other issues not addressed in this email. Others may have a couple specific
> on this list to discuss that uniquely concern them. My thought is although
> we are busy now, we will ALWAYS be busy. MAKING time to dialogue seems
> important.
> Happy Holidays!
> Aaron
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