Proceedings of the

First Diversity Recruitment and

Retention in Debate Ideafest


Edited by Gordon R. Mitchell

University of Pittsburgh


Published by Office of the Dean

University of Pittsburgh


Ideafest convened at


Emory University

Atlanta, GA

June 10-11, 1997


Small Group Work

Melissa Wade: Generally, I hate conferences; there's not enough action and follow through.  This should be our focus today.  One good thing about yesterday was that we had criticism, and people reacting with pride of authorship, and being comfortable about that.  I thought Ede's presentation was very courageous because he did not present a success.  In fact, throwing money at the problem did not help.  He was inspiring because he demonstrated that other factors came to the fore as being as important as money (good teachers, organization of participants, etc.) and that we all have to learn through trial and error until we get it right.  Second, Gordon's comments about the "transformative potential" of debate and the fact that we need to think through the "justifications" for advancing the case for debate directly led to Will Baker's deconstruction of his own program last night.  Now it would be good to focus on a transformative product.  It's important to be critical.  Some think we should be doing LD.  Some in the UDL don't do policy debate.  I think we can learn from each other as critics.  Let's use this session to deconstruct our own models.  I was inspired by Will Baker, who stayed up half the night last night rethinking his own program.

Problem Brainstorming Group I

Claudie Fanning, Linda Collier, Krsna Tibbs,

Chris Wheatley, Paula Nettles, Carrie Crenshaw


* Problems involving lack of resources:

     Lack of monetary resources restricts travel, limits compensation for teachers, and precludes development of a community support structure.

* Problems related to making it in the high school teachers' interest to do debate:

     Lack of compensation and intense time demands discourage many teachers.  There can also be discouragement because of a lack of initial competitive success, especially if one program dominates in a particular region of debate.  The entry barriers are significant for teachers new to debate.

* Problems stemming from lack of marketing / management skills:

     Institutional inertia plays a major role.  It is important to overcome this inertia of the way we have always done things.  Also important for media coverage.

* Other miscellaneous problems:

     Free speech restrictions on teachers, lack of role-models, difficulties of balancing time of college student volunteers.

Problem Brainstorming Group II

Greg Blankinship, Mike Edmonds, Laura Heider, Karla Leeper,

 Chris Lundberg, Les Lynn, Gordon Mitchell, Tuna Snider


* Problems with coaching at the high school level:

     When a coach is brought in from the outside, it is difficult to develop and retain teachers within the school and continuity of the program is jeopardized.  Teachers are overworked; it is difficult to clear space for attention to debate.  The viability of programs on a high school level is a big question mark because of the heavy teaching load.  In Chicago, the easy part was selling the concept to the Board of Education; the difficult part was bringing teachers into the program.  School boards are generally hesitant to pay for full-time coaches.  There is a myth that all high school debate coaches do is coach debate.  New teachers who might be interested in debate don't know who to call for information  and support.  Personal hyper-competitiveness results in skewed reward systems. 

* Problems with the sports model:

     Selling debate as a sport prefigures the method of evaluation for the activity; success becomes quickly equated with competitive performance.  This results in a less stable foundation for the debate program (compared to more academically-based justifications).

* Problems with participant homogeneity:

     There is a distinct lack of diversity at the highest levels of competition, especially among national-level coaches.  The fanatical emphasis on competitive success in NDT competition is part of the problem contributing to the lack of diversity.  There is also a lack of diversity in high school institute staffs.

* Problems with underutilization of the political potential of alumni:

     There is enormous power in the capabilities of high-level national-circuit performers on the collegiate level; the problem is that when these debaters graduate, the power tends to dissipate and there is no structure to unite them in a common vision of extending and nurturing debate.

* Problems with debate in rural areas:

     Travel distance increases costs.  Small number of schools makes it difficult to organize competitive events. 

* Problems with top-level competition on the national debate circuit:

     The Cold War mentality of bankrupting the competition by outspending other schools leads to the formation of an unreachable elite.  Top performers often lack the ability to adapt / speak to public audiences.


Solution Brainstorming Group I

Claudie Fanning, Linda Collier, Krsna Tibbs,

Chris Wheatley, Paula Nettles, Carrie Crenshaw


* Fundamental assumptions behind solutions:

     Expand programs, include more people with geographic targeting to schools with predominantly minority students.  Monetary support, community support structure.

* Creation of non-monetary rewards for debate as a solution:

     Trophies--many awards for students, credentials (e.g. in-service programs), top-down approval of efforts (e.g. school board support), letters of acknowledgment for high school coaches, banquet at which the school president presents a "certificate" as part of an awards assembly.  Student representatives could vote on a coach of the year award or a judging award.  There could be other kinds of awards such as individual schools' "service awards" for parents.

* Solutions geared to increase involvement of teachers:

     Talk with principals to find out who are the key motivated teachers.  Also, more former debaters are becoming coaches.  Create a new coach packet to help answer the "So, you've been assigned to the debate team" question.  Make the packet accessible, practical and motivating.  Increase student motivation by making tournament travel a reward.  In-service training can be provided for new teachers learning about debate, but it should NOT be on weekends and it should be during regular in-service time (i.e. off days).  Such training sessions could be run at each team's institutions.  Included in the program could be: a diversity component, a certificate, college credit, staff development credit, teachers debating themselves.

* Curricular solutions:

     Include debate as a component of foreign language classes, include debate as a unit in English classes, require debate classes for graduation, include middle school, give performing arts credit for debate participation.

* Other possible solutions:

     Make personal contact through lunches, letters, and phone calls.  Do outreach to immigrants as an "acculturation" benefit.  Target on-campus clubs (e.g. "multi-cultural club"), make a community service component for college debaters, work within existing high school debate organizations (Chris says "co-opt L-D").  Increase student representation in leagues (e.g. CEDA).  Get community coaches involved.  Generate a list of contact people (e.g. volunteers) in order to facilitate networking.  Establish internet websites connected to each other.  Establish a city coaches league, hold a workshop where coaches can share ideas and information, as part of an in-service day.  Get universities and higher administration types (e.g. university president) to solicit participation from high school debaters, since debaters are good candidates for college students.  Do community outreach using cable programs, public forum debates, and PTA debates.  Do a mentoring program among high school coaches.  Have existing experienced coaches work with teachers new to debate.  Coordinate communication about professional development opportunities (e.g. scholarships available to teachers and students at workshops that are part of in-service or mentoring).

Solution Brainstorming Group II

Greg Blankinship, Mike Edmonds, Laura Heider, Karla Leeper,

 Chris Lundberg, Les Lynn, Gordon Mitchell, Tuna Snider


* Curriculum-based solutions:

     Give college debaters credit for working with high schools.  Create a syllabus and make it available.  Another way that many of the problems involved in high school coaching could be addressed would be to work debate instruction into the existing curriculum.  Because school boards can often be unwieldy when it comes to curriculum issues, perhaps the best way to accomplish this is to go directly to the teachers.  It would be wise to help schools and teachers use debate as a method in their regular classes as a way to make it easier to later start debate teams.  Such efforts might be leveraged by creating a national certification program that could establish training protocols and standards, and provide high school teachers with a professional reward structure.

* Finding solutions in co-operative debate circuits:

     Get the "New Coach/Program" packets from CEDA, NFL, and all 50 state HS associations, then merge it into a really good one and make it available to all. This packet should include a video that helps people "sell debate" to administrations, parents, etc.  Solicit student input on recruitment / retention problems.  While it may be difficult to establish a full-time coach for each school, one solution might be the creation of "circuit-riding" coaches, who would travel to multiple schools each week to coach several teams.  This solution may be particularly appropriate for rural areas.

 * Potential solutions initiated by national organizations (CEDA / NDT):

     Creation of a national debate promotion coordinator to help new program, at-risk programs, etc.  Establishment of an emergency "cavalry" to be dispatched when programs are in jeopardy of being terminated.  Develop links with regional organizations such as Americorps, Boys and Girls clubs, etc., to expand range of first points of contact.


Problem / Solution Brainstorming Group III

Beth Breger, George Ziegelmueller, Rob Tucker, John Meany,

Ede Warner, Shawn Whalen


George Ziegelmueller: It is important to establish a permanent program; establish continuity; involve local leadership and improve teacher retention---the university is not a substitute for effective local or school administration of the program.

Rob Tucker: This is a mode of criticism (from George) that relates to some program models and not to others.

George Ziegelmueller: It is applicable to any programs hoping to establish long-term success; one also needs to work with multiple schools to avoid the limitations of the Daniel Webster Project approach.

Beth Breger: How is it possible to sustain growth and the momentum of programs and establish necessary resources and local financial support?

Ede Warner: Marketing needs to be included as an element in every program

Rob Tucker: 90% of the administrative time spent in the Daniel Webster Project is for fundraising.

Ede Warner: It is important to establish matching funds programs.

Beth Breger: It is important that programs are self-sustaining for a reason; OSI will offer initial support but there is difficulty providing much support beyond one-two years.

George Ziegelmueller: There must be a local person associated with institutional fundraising.

Rob Tucker: It has been easy for the Daniel Webster Project to raise money.

Beth Breger: Does the Daniel Webster Project have in-kind support?  The cost per child is high in the Daniel Webster Project.

Shawn Whalen: How is it possible to fund or support an entire league?

George Ziegelmueller: It is necessary to have seed money which can be used to establish programs, then increase fundraising efforts; these efforts must be coordinated with regional and local high school forensic organizations.

Shawn Whalen: There is an additional difficulty---time constraints for coaches.

John Meany: There are additional difficulties as well, particularly the culture of competitive communities perceiving non-competitive activities as a zero-sum tradeoff with commitment to competitive success.

George Ziegelmueller: Debate must recognize that urban programs can be viable programs.

Rob Tucker: It is important to go to individuals in campus leadership positions and include them in the support structure for the program.

Ede Warner: The university must be seen as a site for change and resistance to business-as-usual for marginalized populations.

George Ziegelmueller: As high school teachers gain confidence in practice, it is possible to create a local supportive community.

Beth Breger: It is necessary to create indigenous leadership within the high

school community.

George Ziegelmueller: There are different cultural issues among local communities that include issues of the role of women and tournament scheduling, for example, among the Hispanic and Islamic communities in Michigan.

Shawn Whalen: The culture of exclusion is a significant issue as is the problematic nature of the competitive culture in intercollegiate debate, i.e., will coaches devote the time required for urban programs?

Rob Tucker: We need an ecosphere of alternate possibilities; how does one walk the fine line between excellence in intercollegiate programs and exclusion for anyone who might undermine that success?

George Ziegelmueller: [As a program director] one needs to identify goals and determine issues of inclusion and exclusion; the intercollegiate national tournament circuit is overemphasized; What sort of training are we trying to provide for students? The goal of critical thinking and public advocacy, and it is necessary to have both, rather than the latter alone, is to make sure that both sides of an issue are presented; the meeting here (Ideafest) is a very liberal group and seems to focus on outcome-based advocacy; debate must include critical thinking and 'learning to learn'---it cannot be public advocacy that claims to right 'wrongs'; people need to be told how to figure things out for themselves---this is the foundation for excellence; it is not telling people, via public advocacy, what is right and wrong.

Ede Warner: One can send students to high school institutes and use them as coaches to teach novices.

George Ziegelmueller: It is hard to do both public audience debate and competitive programs simultaneously; one would have to work overtime to prepare for public debates because it is a full-time commitment for a competitive program; some public issues can be debated in the high school settings---these will teach many of the skills associated with critical thinking.

Ede Warner: The goal needs to be exposure to significant events and opportunity; high school students need to see the importance of issues in the context of opportunities for participation in worthwhile and different activities-they need opportunities that reveal possible futures, chances 'down the road'; debate, including tournament participation, is internship and job training; the focus should be on long-term, as well as short-term goals.

George Ziegelmueller: One needs to work with high school people in this task.

Rob Tucker: The goal of the Webster program is to create an appealing program such that high school students want to participate.

George Ziegelmueller: Part of the problem at the college level is that success is exclusively defined by success on the national circuit.

Rob Tucker: One should try to get high school students to debate in front of top college coaches.

Beth Breger: Debate should be a means to an end; exposure to opportunity, via debate, is important.

Shawn Whalen: Everyone starts participation in debate without a sense of where it will lead; skill development for other endeavors is an essential element of debate practice.

George Ziegelmueller: Debate can be a tool to break down stereotypes and serve as a bridge for communities.

Rob Tucker: Perhaps there are opportunities for some program cooperation, for example, tournament directors could waive entry fees for outreach teams.

John Meany: It is essential to broaden the base of intercollegiate participation to provide judges, mentors for outreach programs; there are too few debaters and coaches to sustain dramatically increased high school policy debate participation in some regions.

Ede Warner: We must broaden the base of participation and the long-term growth of outreach programs. There is fear, on the part of college program directors, that rapid growth of outreach programs would stretch or eliminate their own resources that are needed for their students; this fear, the potential restriction on competitive success and tournament opportunities for college students, might limit the potential of outreach programs, making them small and isolated.

Beth Breger: That is why we want and need high school role models; we need high school teachers and administrators to take students on the road and draw people in to debate programs; it is necessary to institutionalize role school teachers and administrators to take students on the road and draw people in to debate programs; it is necessary to institutionalize role models in the high school community.

Shawn Whalen: We need an established infrastructure that can provide information and training to other communities to expand new programs.

Rob Tucker: It is important for colleges to provide release time for debate.

Shawn Whalen: Any design of a program should be portable; effective programs should be modeled.

Ede Warner: Programs that are limited in size and quality are always portable; there should be controls for quality as well.

Shawn Whalen: Perhaps we need a more limited vision for the initial establishment of programs with step-by-step guides and instructional materials.

Ede Warner: Programs must be supported with comprehensive and salient materials.

Shawn Whalen: In addition to instructional materials, it is important to share information about successes and be able to relate like circumstances and problems; important to be able to get answers to questions.

Ede Warner: The problem associated with debate involves the marketing of the product.

Rob Tucker: I have spent hundreds of hours creating fundraising templates.

Ede Warner: It might be necessary to disconnect the academy from debate; OSI might help, by providing internships for a civilian debate force.

Rob Tucker: Students and faculty can do outreach programs for community service classes and job requirements; the Daniel Webster Project will try to use money as a lever to try to get tenure-track positions in communications departments.

Shawn Whalen: Only large, public institutions are likely to provide release time and assistantships or internships for community service; these are not realistic for the majority of programs.

Ede Warner:  We need a state of debate report that considers these opportunities for release time and additional positions for outreach programs.

Shawn Whalen: Few students have time to commit to community projects if they are serious students and also involved in intercollegiate debate; an increasing number of students from marginalized populations, many of whom have a strong spirit of volunteerism to assist students in their own or like communities, also must work to afford to attend college; there are real limits on the number of students available for outreach and limits on the amount of time that interested students can spend.

Rob Tucker: One could establish a program, modeled on the Peace Corps, that would return a number of graduating students to communities for outreach efforts.

Beth Breger: There needs to be some consolidation of models, some interchangeability, if they are to be truly portable and expandable.

Rob Tucker: One could have multiple programs.

Shawn Whalen: Programs would be isolated and ineffective without consolidation of models; multiple models will not work to share information and effectively expand programs in the short-term.

Rob Tucker: The Daniel Webster Project is a program that is setting the infrastructure in place; the question is how to integrate the Daniel Webster Project and urban debate leagues, for example, have Daniel Webster programs and urban debate leagues in the same region; if there is quality in the Americorps for Debate idea (Peace Corps model for outreach), then try that instructional model for the same region.

Shawn Whalen: It is more important to increase the number of participating students in a region than to concentrate resources at a single site; it is necessary to have multiple schools involved in a region.

Ede Warner: Experienced personnel can each manage a number of schools, for example, a single person might manage five schools; this is the way to construct an all-county or citywide project in the short-term.

Rob Tucker: You could have a competition at each school to see which student could be named the Daniel Webster scholar at each of the urban debate league sites; this way the urban debate leagues could feed into the Webster selected sites.

Ede Warner: We need to stop the focus on a single school; every student at every school should have the opportunity to compete.

Shawn Whalen: The important issue is how each school provides a full debate program to its students, not how it becomes a Webster site; there is no reason to keep the structural concept of the Webster Project unless it provides more opportunities for students to participate.

Beth Breger: There must be teacher training in the schools; we cannot rely on outside instruction.

Rob Tucker: One could use student retention rates as a financial hook to get additional involvement of teachers (match stipends to student participation and retention).

Beth Breger: In New York city, teachers wanted to send the best students to participate and administrators wanted to send the best teachers; they should send participants who want to learn and are self-motivated.

Rob Tucker: I think that money could improve retention but I am trying to figure out the ecosystem of program interactions.

Beth Breger: We need to increase local funding and increase the number of participants; we need teachers to accommodate the long-term needs of the program.

Ede Warner: What are the criteria for that kind of program?

Beth Breger: Debate in underserved communities; the components include good university-high school relations, mentoring, outreach, contact with boards of education and other administrators, contact with school officials and parents, recognition of the possibilities for effective debate in the area and integration with area debate events, essentially the extant UDL model.