Monday, May 17, 2010

Speech and Debate

So it looks like @schickbob and I are co-moderating the Speech and Debate Team next year.

I remember forensics from my high school days and I wonder how (if?) it has changed. I mean, it's one thing to prepare for a random-topic LD debate back in the days of pencil and notecards and a half-a-brain full of scattered trivia and select reusable quotes. It's a whole other story in the days of an iPhone and a pocketful of immediate access to most of the knowledge and events of human civilization.

And when it comes to speeches these days... well... what constitutes a speech? I see a handful of NPC monologues from MMOGs as well as various viral YouTube clips just as potent for interpretive address as any speech of Patton or Henry V.

I guess I'm just thinking out loud, but I'm looking forward to the challenge; and I'm also humbly asking any Speech and Debate coaches among you for advice. What flys? What doesn't? This will be my first year and I really don't know what to expect.

And alas, since this is a request for forensics advice, I submit my petition unto you in the worst possible paraphrase jumble of Shakespeare that I could conjure, so: "Friends, Tweeters, Blogsphere! Lend me your Comments!"


  1. Interesting questions you ask. I am an old high school debater and orator and the Internet observations are striking. Iwould love to start a team here at Wakefield using all modern tools. Are you going CFL or NFL? Keep me posted.

  2. I've coached speech and debate events, for a few years now, though I would hardly call myself an expert, since I'm still learning. You'd be surprised at how little the electronic world has made it into speech and debate. (There's an article about it here: Much notetaking is still done on paper; it was a big deal last year when the Catholic Forensic League allowed students to use laptops, rather than tubs of photocopied articles, for extemporaneous speaking (the NFL still doesn’t allow it). Even now, extemp students can't access the web, only the articles they've saved to their computer.

    On the other hand, there are debaters that use laptops during debates. My team uses Diigo to share sources, which I love (it was how I first found Diigo).

    Unfortunately, interp is an area we're only just moving into, so I'm still learning the rules myself. The CFL says that interp material has to be "published"—since it has to have an ISBN number, the probably means published the old-fashioned way. The NFL is more explicit: interp is for “selections drawn from published, printed: novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or other printed, published works.” That’s from their rule book online here: However, that’s just what’s written down. In practice, things may be different, or more flexible, particularly when you’re dealing with local events. And even if they aren’t flexible yet, if you push, they might move into the 21st century. For some speech events, "publishing" has meant "publicly delivered"--so why not make online a form of public delivery?

    Good luck with it! I’ve found it a great way to get to know some really interesting students.

  3. I just finished my first year coaching my school's Speech and Debate club. Our league actually has a rule about "no electronic communication" during rounds. That means they can use a laptop for flowing and have files on the laptop for info, but can not connect to the internet during a round.

    I am okay with that. A debate moves so quickly that researching during would be sure fire way to lose.

    Good results with your team! I am looking forward to next year. Actually, it is only 5 more school weeks for me before my next meet. It will come up very quickly!


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