Thursday, September 15, 2011

Debate for Everyday Students and Their Coaches

The commentary, analysis and ideas presented on these pages originate from a high-school NFL debate coach active in northeast Ohio.  Debate is not my full time occupation nor am I a high-school teacher.  I work hard at a full time job an average of 40-50 hours per week and then dedicate my remaining time to perfecting my skills as a debate coach and the skills of a group of equally hard-working, dedicated students. The debaters I work with, indeed most of the debaters I know, are ordinary students engaged in multiple extra-curricular activities and who also like to debate. To be sure, they are competitive, extremely competitive, and driven to excel. After all, winning is fun and losing is not.  But the reality is, most of them will never debate in college and will probably never teach nor coach debate.  For some of them debate is a chance to build a unique and enriching skill set.  For others, it a chance to be competitive, maybe even good at something outside of an athletic field. And for nearly all of them, debate will provide a background of critical thinking and research skills that will serve them in their future academic and professional careers.

Debate is certainly a unique and rich activity and like any complex living organism it tends to morph and evolve in ways not always expected. The beginning of the 2011-2012 debate season in my corner of the world, finds the mother of all debate categories, policy debate, disappearing from many districts.  Lincoln-Douglas debate, in the meantime, seems to be morphing into a Policy-LD hybrid with kritiks and theory arguments emerging into the mainstream as students continue to seek competitive advantages.  All the while, the upstart, Public Forum debate has become the fastest growing debate category in our state. Some coaches proclaim PF is the antidote to Policy Debate. But the discerning eye perceives a growing trend toward more non-traditional argumentation in the category originally designed for the layperson. Where will these changes lead and what will be the reaction of the debate community, judges and coaches?  Only time will reveal.

The purpose of this site is not to criticize nor lament the emerging trends, but rather contribute some ideas on how keep students on track.  We are attempting to adapt and learning as we go.  This is debate for everyday students and coaches who are trying to keep from falling behind and perhaps gain some measure of competitive edge. Winning is fun and losing is not fun. Let the fun begin. 


  1. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge with everyone. I am a former debater and I am returning to debate as an assistant coach (20 years later) ... so your posts have helped (me at least) a lot to get up to speed on the current trends, styles and new categories of competetive debating.


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