Three Elements of Forensic Competition: The Coach, Content, and Student
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Involvement in high school extracurricular activities is important for students of diversity; however, forensics (competitive speech & debate) is often viewed as an exclusive, all-White, suburban activity for those who come from wealth. Through three articles, utilizing a mixed methodological approach – the students involved, the content studied, and the coaches who prepare these students – are evaluated. Article 1 argues for the inclusion of forensic programs in high school to provide diverse students dialogue, originality, and diversity in literature. Article 2 is a performance ethnography created from a national survey of coaches. 10 composite characters illuminate the highs and lows of coaching a forensics program. Article 3 provides results of a national survey of former forensic high school competitors. Article 1 utilizes The Wizard of Oz as a vehicle to address the benefits of forensics for students of diverse backgrounds among mandated test focused classrooms. The article introduces politician-wizards and teacher-witches frustrated with the bureaucracy of standardized testing. Using narrative examples, students epitomize the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, with no brain for school, no heart for learning, and fear of the classroom due to standardized testing pressures. The article provides technicolor solutions, which offer students ways to achieve success beyond the test. Article 2, a performance ethnography, explores 10 composite coaches, attempting to earn a role in an educational play. A director questions these coaches, symbolizing the outside voices heard by coaches in the forensic community. Discussions include: educational benefits, time, constraints, frustrations, and coping mechanisms. Article 3 articulates survey results of 1,050 forensic alumni participants. The article addresses various student populations: Black, Hispanic, LGBTIQ, persons with a disability, and FIT (female, intersex, and transgender). Results are also analyzed by event preferences: debate, public speaking, and oral interpretation. All categories of participants yielded a strong positive response regarding the satisfaction of their experiences and their perceived influence of forensics on post-secondary lives. The only significantly different population was FIT in regards to post-secondary influence. Themes from participant responses are addressed for each diverse population.
speech & debate
Baker, Joseph Scott (2016). Three Elements of Forensic Competition: The Coach, Content, and Student. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from