Initiates Forensic Program in Her Community
By Debra Gramespacher
When I read about the documentary film, ACCIDENTAL HERO, in the Monterey
Herald newspaper, it brought back memories. I was fortunate to have been
able to participate in a successful Debate and Forensics program, while
attending Clovis Unified High School. It was easy for me to associate
with the hard work, emotional growth and academic successes, won through
Forensics, as described in the Herald's article.
years later, I still draw from the poise and analytical skills won through
Forensics and Debate. Wishing that my children should have the same opportunities,
pained me to read that Forensics is not currently offered at my children's
I wrote a letter to the Superintendent, Assistant-Superintendent and the
documentary's producer, asking "What can I do to help start a local
chapter of the national Forensics and Debate in our school district..."
a scheduled meeting with the high school principals and assistant Superintendent,
I learned that beginning speech was being offered, culminating in regional
"Mock Trial" competitions. We could build from the existing
class curriculums, first offering competitive speech as an elective and
later as a graduation liberal arts requirement.
full program with competitive invitationals requires a full-time speech
instructor. This would mean additional funding through grants, which is
where our local efforts are currently concentrated. As explained in ACCIDENTAL
HERO, it usually takes 3 to 4 years to build a large enough pool of interested
students to offer a successful Forensics and Debate program. Speaking
with the district's administrators, this would mean paying for half a
teacher for the first couple of years and a full-time teacher in the 3rd
and 4th years.
Initiating a Debate and Forensics program in your own school district
requires patience and persistence. To begin with, meet with instructors
at the district's high schools to determine if speech is currently offered
and get a course syllabus. Inquire whether the classes are popular.
The goal is to make speech first an elective then a required course for
- Term Goals:
with the superintendent and school principals to discuss current curriculums.
Is speech offered? Can the subject be introduced as an elective?
the closest chapter of the National Forensics League. What would it
cost in time and money to travel to and participate in regional tournaments?
at other local districts about their own speech programs.
local speech clubs, like Toastmasters, to locate assistance.
foundations, which could provide funding and marketing assistance to
communicate the educational rewards of Forensics and Debate to the community.
funding for an instructor to teach beginning speech as an elective,
if it is not already offered. Initial funding will probably have to
be secured with a Grant.
students to sign up for the elective. Creating a pool of students for
a new program may require the district to make speech a required course
for graduation. As a required course, the district would probably have
to commit to financing the program from the General Fund.
a full-time instructor/coach.
a pool of tournament judges.
persons and schools can contact the National
Association of Urban Debate Leagues for start-up materials,
including a detailed primer, instructional and promotional videotapes,
and anthologies of documents produced by the UDLs.
National Association of Urban Debate Leagues
1601 S. Indiana Ave., Suite 112
Chicago, IL 60616