Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers


Public Forum Debate Forums

I am not sure how you found my site, but if you are interested in checking out what seems to be a growing forum for Public Forum debate, I would encourage you to check out PFDebate where there is a blog, wiki, and forums. While I always take the general populations comments with a grain of salt, I think Bob, the owner of PFDebate, is doing a huge community service by hosting and maintaining the site. It is always interesting to see what happens when a community forum is made available to a national audience of high school academics. Enjoy!

Musings on the January PF Topic Vote

While we haven’t received an email from the National Forensics League, the three Public Forum topics are up for voting for January. And the choices are…

  • Resolved: The United States fed­eral gov­ern­ment should legal­ize marijuana.
  • Resolved: In the United States, elec­tions for fed­eral office should be financed exclu­sively with pub­lic funding.
  • Resolved: In the United States, plea bar­gain­ing under­mines the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

I was beginning to do research on the topics and write out my deliberations before voting and then realized I could write them out here just as easily as on a piece of paper (and maybe save a tree in the process?).

The first thing I can do is rule out the marijuana topic. I recognize kids may want to debate it. We wanted to debate it 12-15 years ago when I was a high school debater. It was worn out then and the debate really hasn’t evolved much. The research is still skewed, there are still lots of biased sources around. For selfish reasons, I would love to see a more unique topic proposed. Additionally, having seen a number of PF rounds this year, I could easily see students turning this into a medical merijuana debate which isn’t what the broad topic proposes but is an easy way out of a fair number of arguments. And the medicinal debate has been beaten to death.

Let’s move on to the Plea Bargaining topic. I think this topic is pretty interesting. However, it is a rehash of a 2007 Lincoln-Douglas debate topic and let’s be honest, how many debaters are going to complain about that. Because heaven forbid we ever see a topic repeat in our history. There definitely have never been political battles about similar topics, or wars over similar… oh wait….

But on a serious note, I do worry the topic is a bit broad for a 37 minute debate. The criminal justice system is pretty huge. Which means we will probably have lots of counterexample wars where winning arguments on both sides lack comparable quantifications and pass by each other like ships in the night, forcing judges to cherry-pick what they want to vote on.

I recognize the complaints from people who think the public funding for elections smells like the lobbying topic. I think some of those arguments could be made here (see above sarcasm as to why I don’t care about that argument), however I also think this resolution poses some real world, real time questions. This is especially true with the mid-term elections just ending and the run for the 2012 presidential campaigns getting heated up.

You can guess how I voted. Now I can only hope that in the month my team debates multiple tournaments every weekend, that I get to see some amazing debates!

At the end of the weekend…

Starbucks. You should probably buy some stock in it.

This will be the first of many odes to one of my biggest vices. But as the first day of competition at the Glenbrooks wraps up and I desperately seek some sleep, I wanted to pay homage to the over priced frilly beverages that brighten my debate-ridden days.

green and white paper cup

filled with joy, sugar, soy, and love

you kept me sane today

Seriously. The baristas at the Starbucks near campus know me. In one day. Because only a debate coach makes multiple (*cough* three *cough* plus one someone offered to do for me *cough*) trips in one day. It’s a bad habit. But probably not the worst habit I could have.

Drinks I had today:

  • Venti Unsweetened Passion Iced Tea (2 times)
  • Venti Iced Soy Latte
  • Venti Coffee Frappuccino Light with Soy Milk and 1 pump Mocha and 2 pumps Peppermint
  • Tall Iced Soy Pumpkin Latte

Now to get some sleep because tomorrow will be another long day!

Someone was reading my mind last night…

I started this blog after a number of conversations with coaches in the high school and college community. When I was in college, there were coaches studying and writing about how unhealthy the lifestyle of debate can be on it’s participants. That was almost a decade ago. However, even today there is a push to increase the focus on creating a healthy environment.

While no one may be reading my blog yet, a college debater who knows I am attempting to live healthier, directed me to a college debate forum focused on the Healthy Debater Initiative. To my surprise, I found an email I had written to another coach had been shared with the community about healthy eating tips. How cool is that! While my eating habits have changed (I rarely eat animal products), I still follow most of the guide.

It is good to know that there is a movement at the college level for a healthier debate community. I hope the high school community will take notice and work to improve our environment as well. I am probably on a plane to Chicago as this post is being auto-published. After we check-in to the hotel, my students and I will had to the grocery store. I have a shopping list from my assistant coach who arrives later in the evening and will create my list on the plane. Tomorrow I will share the stash with you, so you can get an idea of what this Healthy Academic is eating.

A Critical Self-Examination of the Health of Competitive Forensics Coaches

You don’t know me, but I wanted to tell you that I am an addict. I spend most weekends feeding my addiction. Most of my friends are addicts as well and often when we get together, our addiction is all we can talk about.

Twenty or more weekends on the road. Summers spent in dorm rooms and classrooms and libraries. Monday through Friday spent with adolescents, discussing research methods, delivery styles, argument structure followed by weekends with those same students at exotic locations like Lexington, Kentucky. Nights spent in chain hotels that all eventually blend together into a home away from home. Addiction. All of it.

If you haven’t figured out what I do by the title of this post, let me explain. I teach high school communication studies courses and coach a debate team. This means that I teach classes all week and then spend most weekends at debate tournaments. Many of these tournaments are located in other time zones which means that my high school students and I are hoping on planes, trains, and automobiles to get to destinations where we play academic mind games all weekend in high school and university classrooms. I spend almost every weekend during the school year at tournaments and during the summer I attend one or two more plus a couple of residential summer debate programs at various universities.

Debate coaches/teachers don’t do it for the money. That’s clear. Don’t ask what my hourly wage would be because I broke it down one year and almost had a breakdown. We do it because we love engaging students in the research and critical thinking that debate requires. We love watching our students discover new arguments for themselves and communicate those ideas and advocacies. Plus our students sometimes win things and that makes us proud. Finally, after awhile, the debate community becomes a part of our extended family and going to tournaments in like a family reunion.

My sane friends, the ones who don’t do debate, and strangers often say, “I don’t know how you do it!” Well after some prodding, I decided I would spend the next year telling you how. This weekend, one of the largest and most well-known high school tournaments in the country will take place in Illinois, and what better time to start a daily blog than right before a high-stress event?

I was hesitant to create this blog. I had a personal blog that didn’t have my name attached. A few students found my blog and I panicked and shut it down. There wasn’t anything too personal, but it was weird and I didn’t like it.

I knew that writing this blog would put me out there. People will read this blog and will know who I am. And I had to make sure I was okay with that. I have decided that the purpose of this blog was more important that the minor discomfort of putting myself in the virtual public eye.

Debate is a competitive activity but a sedentary one. Combine long periods of research and debate rounds with incredibly late nights and early mornings. Fast food, caffeine, travel, lack of sleep and little down time all contribute to a lifestyle that isn’t healthy. I am not the picture of health and I am not alone. While many debate coaches do focus on health, our career path has obstacles built in by it’s very existence.

This summer, a debate coach I knew personally passed away. He wasn’t the first debate coach to die too soon and he probably won’t be the last. But his death was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I began to examine my life. I have made an effort to live a healthier life, taking up running in 2009 before getting injured, and making healthier food choices. However the lifestyle of a debate coach is demanding and the stress of the job means that sometimes I don’t want to prepare a healthy meal or hit the gym. And this stress can snowball into a pattern that is less than stellar.

I won’t make any promises of perfection. This isn’t a “change my life” blog. But rather it is the examination of a communications teacher/debate coach who is trying every day to do the job she loves while protecting her health to the best of her abilities. I recognize my job is a health-hazard. But I don’t think it always has to be. So I have decided to document my life for one year. From the travel to fitness to daily struggles to views on debate topics to just about anything else that life throws at me. You are invited to join my adventure as this coach documents my attempts at improving my health while being the best teacher/coach I can be.