Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Accidental Hero - Room 408
Benefits of ForensicsMeet Tommie LindseyMeet the StudentsGet InvolvedFor TeachersFor ParentsThe FilmHome
Will budget cuts kill this program? | Community Action Guide | Order the Video


Start-up materials from
National Association of
Urban Debate Leagues


Parent Gets Involved...
Initiates Forensic Program in Her Community

By Debra Gramespacher

Painful Discovery
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.

Twenty 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, it
pained me to read that Forensics is not currently offered at my children's high school.

First Steps
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..."

Through 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.

A 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.

Time and Patience
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.

Primary Goal
The goal is to make speech first an elective then a required course for graduation.

Short - Term Goals:

  1. Meet with the superintendent and school principals to discuss current curriculums. Is speech offered? Can the subject be introduced as an elective?
  2. Find the closest chapter of the National Forensics League. What would it cost in time and money to travel to and participate in regional tournaments?
  3. Inquire at other local districts about their own speech programs.
  4. Contact local speech clubs, like Toastmasters, to locate assistance.
  5. Identify foundations, which could provide funding and marketing assistance to communicate the educational rewards of Forensics and Debate to the community.

Long Term Goals:

  1. Find 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.
  2. Convince 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.
  3. Identify a full-time instructor/coach.
  4. Create a pool of tournament judges.

Start-up Materials

Interested 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.

Les Lynn
Executive Director
National Association of Urban Debate Leagues
1601 S. Indiana Ave., Suite 112
Chicago, IL 60616
(o) 312-986-8101
(e) leslynn@urbandebate.org

Benefits of Forensics | Meet Tommie Lindsey | Meet the Students | Get Involved
For Teachers
| For Parents | The Film | Contact Us | Site Map | Home
©2002 Mac & Ava Productions. All rights reserved.