During the National tournament in Dallas this year I tweeted something that seemed to have garnered some anger and animosity towards me. Some of these people who were/are apparently mad at me have since rescinded their public opinions. Since I seem to get a lot of flak for my thoughts and opinions, I figured that I would lay them out on here so that the entire forensic community can have their own thoughts and opinions on this matter. What I am to write about is not in any way the official stance of 3P, though I imagine it will sing true to the standards that 3P Speech has set up for itself over the last 4 years of being active in this activity.
What, you ask, could I have possibly said?
I’ve noticed over the last couple of years a troubling trend of students/coaches purchasing scripts that have either been written or cut for them, specifically. This troubles me for a couple of reasons, but the one I will focus on right now is the educational value and how it is slowly be drained from this activity.
While I will not name any organizations or individuals that specifically sell these services, I’m sure that most of you can probably name a couple off the top of your head; heck you may have even bought into these services. It is not my intent to drag their name through the mud, as I’m sure they are great individuals and really do care for the people of this activity, but I cannot stand by and watch it continue to happen while keeping my thoughts to myself.
I don’t see how we are giving young people the opportunity to learn, grow, and be able to form a proper argument if they don’t learn how to put a cutting together. When you purchase a script that has been specifically written for a student or specifically cut for a student – you are putting a higher value on “winning” than the actual goal that the NFL/NSDA has sought with their mission statement since its inception.
NSDA Mission Statement: The National Speech & Debate Association believes communication skills are essential for empowering youth to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our global society. We connect, support, and inspire a diverse community of honor society members committed to fostering excellence in young people through competitive speech and debate activities.
Over the last few years, I have made it my goal to never do the work for a student that they can do for themselves. Could I provide such services? Absolutely! However, I have seen first-hand how proud and accomplished a young person feels when they work through the adversity of forming a complete and original cutting of their own. (This even extends to students writing their own Oratories – more on this in another article I’m sure will have people chasing me with torches and pitch-forks).
I don’t see how we can “foster excellence in young people” when you take the process out of the activity for them. Are the young people who make the final stage with these cuttings/pieces talented? Yes, and I’m sure they feel accomplished and that’s all fine and dandy, but all you are doing is enforcing that when you pay enough money to someone, you can make the final round at the National Championship. Please, let their talent coincide with hard work (work beyond “hours and hours of practice”) so that they can learn how to read, evaluate, and conceptualize original thought, philosophies and arguments.
There are many out there who will claim that I “know not” what I speak of, and that’s fine, you can have your opinion – after all, we are all free-thinking folk. However, here is what I do know. These last two years, I have had more than a few students who approach me for coaching work- who tell me that they have purchased a specialized piece, only to find out that they weren’t happy with their finished product. Students who have purchased pre-cut scripts spending hundreds of dollars for a script that they do not or could not connect to because the script isn’t speaking to their heart. So many times that I’ve had to sit on the other side of the Skype session and shake my head because these poor kids are wasting their money and at the same time not able to gain what this activity can fully provide for them. It makes me sick to my stomach that this is the case, and really just makes it draining when I have to fight this battle for them while being met with hostility.
I take great pride in the fact that each and every single one of my students knows how to read, conceptualize, chunk, cut, and edit their own scripts. I take great pride in being able to call myself their guide in this process and not the hand that feeds them lines for them to achieve “competitive greatness”. While I know that this will only infuriate people and make them dislike me more than they already do, I’ve decided that I care more about the students than being liked by the people I would hope would have more respect for this activity than they do. I understand that my writing this will not change anything – if anything it would only drive more people to find these services – but I’m done sitting idly by while this happens. If I can reach through to one person with this, then I feel like I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.
So, to the students and coaches who were considering looking for organizations that offer these services – please do yourselves the favor and allow yourself to fully dive into the process that can only serve to make you stronger, prouder, and more well-rounded as a competitor and student. I understand that there are many great coaches out there that utilize these services, but you can be great coaches without taking the process of growth away from the students.
At the end of the day – this is an educational activity that serves to “foster excellence in young people”. Please never forget that! I wish you the best of luck in the following season(s) and years to come!