Open letter from the Club Coach
Your interest in speech and debate is very exciting to me. Competition in the National Christian Forensics Communication Association (NCFCA) has grown many home school students into effective communicators, critical thinkers, and decision makers with a Biblical foundation for the past 20 years.
I’m excited about this upcoming year because partnering with parents and working with students through this discipleship process has been the most rewarding and growing experience I have had.
I am an NCFCA alumnus and competed with a Speech and Debate Club in Austin for six years. I served as president of a club that we jump started there for a year and qualified to nationals in four of my six years of competition. I have three brothers who have also competed and grown up in NCFCA, the older one founding this club before passing on his vision to me.
In NCFCA, I loved the challenging competitions and stimulating community. It made competent, well-reasoned, Christ-like communication very attractive. My younger brothers continue to compete and have used this positive learning experience in 4H speaking competitions where they are earning scholarships! My participation in NCFCA trained me to a degree that when I began to compete in other realms for scholarships, I did well enough to pay for my entire college career based off of the speaking skills I learned here in NCFCA.
I find daily that my experience in the NCFCA has done an excellent job of equipping me to make informed and Biblical decisions in college as well as everyday life. It also equipped my older brother and founder of our club, Nathan, to be a proactive citizen when he lobbied, with the Texas Home School Coalition’s Watchmen, for parental and homeschooling freedoms. With the exception of one, all the THSC Watchmen were NCFCA alumni who came from a home school family speech and debate club like the Brazos Valley Rhetoric Club (BVRC).
It has been the joint goal of my brother, the parents, and competitors already in this club and myself to make this powerhouse of an opportunity available to you and other home school families in the Brazos Valley Area through BVRC. Our first four years have been exciting, productive, and rewarding, both physically and spiritually for myself and my students. Not only have they been able to develop their skills and use them in the real world, but they have been able to develop and grow in their character and faith. I myself have seen immeasurable growth, improvement, and development of maturity in these incredible godly young people that I have been blessed to coach for the past two years. They have also left their mark on me, training and teaching myself and the parents in the club in many ways. It is my hope that you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for yourself and your children and join us for our next year of growth!
Paul D. Exley
The mission of BVRC is to promote excellence in communication, critical thinking, and development of leadership skills in order to address life’s issues from a Biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.
The objectives of our club are the following:
- To promote excellence in communication.
- To address life’s issues from a Biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.
- To address the public in a Biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.
- To assist the family in training young adults to be world-changers with the ability to give the reason for the hope that is in them (I Peter 3:15) and a passion to use their gift to bring healing and life to our community (Proverbs 15:4)
- To provide learning situations for the development of leadership, responsibility and effective citizenship.
- To help each member experience personal growth and achievement as well as be of service to others.
During our meeting we cover speech, debate, and leadership classes. Students and their parents are expected to attend the meetings.
Parents, experienced students, and NCFCA alumni share the responsibility of teaching and coaching all of the speech and debate events. At least one parent from each family must be present and active at each meeting. Having parents actively involved every week will help the club be an effective learning community and not just a weekly class (which would have minimal benefit to your student).
Student Leadership: Officers in the student leadership are responsible for specific club functions. See the Curriculum section for list of offices.
Parent Board of Directors: Ensures quality training, encourages Christ-like behavior and helps student officers develop and reach goals.
We will focus on the eleven different speech events and two debate types (visit www.ncfca.org for descriptions of each event). Students will also be actively leading and participating in tournaments where the bulk of learning takes place.
Because one of BVRC’s priorities is to train up effective leaders, the club is structured so that the students lead and are prompted by parent leaders to take the initiative. There are several leadership positions which the club will need filled.
The offices are:
- Vice President
- TP Coordinator
- TP Evidence Ring Master
- LD Coordinator
- 3 Activities Coordinators
- 2 Cameramen
- 3 Sergeant at arms
BVRC is affiliated with the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, which is the homeschool speech and debate league that hosts our tournaments. The NCFCA sets guidelines and rotates competitive events for maximum educational value. To learn more about the NCFCA, check out their website: www.ncfca.org
- Membership: Membership shall be open to families who meet the eligible status for membership as outlined by the NCFCA League Handbook.
- Affiliate Status: To be able to compete in the NCFCA, the student’s family must be an affiliate with the NCFCA.
- Dues: Must pay yearly dues and NCFCA affiliation fee as listed under Financial.
- Membership Form: may be filled out online at https://bvrctx.org/membership-application/
- Code of Conduct: must be read and signed by parent and student.
- Deposit: $50 deposit made to Brazos Valley Rhetoric Club will be applied toward the year’s dues.
- Each year lasts from September to mid- May. With signing up, you agree:
- To allocate time in your student’s schedule to complete Speech and Debate assignments on a weekly basis.
- As part of the coach-parent-student triangle, to hold your student accountable and assist them if needed in completing the required weekly assignments.
- To attend weekly meetings with your student.
- Your student is required to complete homework assignments in a timely manner and attend at least two tournaments. There are various tournaments scheduled throughout the spring semester.
Club Membership Dues
$225 for the first student in your family; $50 for the second student; no charge for 3rd or more students
This is payable in one payment September 4 or in two payments on September 4 and October 2. If you have paid a deposit, you may subtract that from the total amount you owe so you know how much to pay. Dues collected cover the cost of our facility, insurance, supplies for dinner, and end of year awards.
As mentioned in the Requirements section, a student’s family is required to be affiliated with the NCFCA to be able to compete in its tournaments. Affiliation with the NCFCA is per family and based on the current competitive season. The Affiliation fee is $125 per family regardless of the number of competitors in the family. Early bird discounts are available.
As a member, you are required to attend at least two Competitive Tournaments (practice tournaments do not count) of your choice.
- – Tournament specific fees: $25 per competitor doing debate, $25 per competitor doing up to two speech events, +$10 for each extra event after that. So, if you go for just one speech or two speeches you would pay $25.
- – Meals: Food bought at tournaments is about $5/meal. Many families bring their own food and that works fine.
- – Accommodations: Homeschool families in the area occasionally open up their homes to host competitors and their families.
- Discounted rates for hotels will be listed on the NCFCA website.
Participating in speech and debate will help your student learn and exercise analytical and oratorical skills, and it does require significant commitment. Before continuing, please read “The Value of Debate and How to Fit It In, and How To Count Credit Hours by Terry, Deanna & Ryan Stollar” in the appendix. Please understand that to have this result, speech and debate cannot simply be added to your current curriculum; it must become an integral part of it, and you add the few things that it doesn’t cover.
Here are a few rough estimates of the time requirements:
- – Speech: One to two hours a week per speech is the minimal time recommendation. However, your student will not learn very much or advance very far in competition with the minimal effort. The more time your student spends on each speech, the farther he or she will go and the more they will learn in the process.
- – Debate: Depending on the style of debate (Lincoln Douglas or Team Policy), it can require a minimum of 2-4 hours per week for research, practice and coordinating between partners.
– After the first two semesters: Students reach the top of the learning curve after the first year or so. The years with the most educational value take place after the first year.
– For Maximum Return on Time Invested: I participated in Speech and Debate Club for four years. My biggest learning curves happened in my 1st three years with the 4th year being a culmination and more of a lifestyle change that incorporated my speech skills with all I did. I have known many competitors that have been at it for six years. However, this learning cap will differ from student to student depending on his or her calling. Thus, I would recommend playing it by ear.
Speech and Debate is an immensely powerful tool that trains students in crucial life skills. What makes it different from any other speech and debate class is that: It is much more effective. College admissions boards are specifically looking for graduates with a background in speech and debate. These students’ ability to communicate has made them excel (view the full article in the appendix, pg. 15). It’s a club, not just another class.
Our community is stimulating and driven with a common vision supported by accountability and camaraderie. Finally, it approaches communication from a Biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.
from Coaching Policy Debate, Transitioning from a debate class to a debate club, Antithesis Debate Publications
One of the dilemmas parents understandably have, when considering whether to allow their child to compete in debate or not, is how to fit it into the student’s schedule. Most parents are astute enough to realize that debate consumes much time. They wonder if they can “fit it in” with their already busy schedule. The question is valid and good, but the approach to analyzing the situation is flawed.
When most parents think about adding a subject to their students’ school load, it is natural to weigh the cost by trying to guess how much time the new subject will take and then see if the students’ schedule will allow the increase. This is wise and compassionate (although there is a significant chance that the student will fail to see the compassion in adding anything to his load). Nonetheless, the parent has the child’s best interest at heart. The basis for the decision, then, is how can this new subject fit into the existing schedule? Approaching debate in this manner will always lead one to say, “No way!”
Debate requires a tremendous amount of time, resource, energy, commitment, parental involvement, guidance, money, and encouragement. In the 1998 debate season, the authors of this course carefully tracked almost every hour their 2 sons spent on debate over the course of the entire season. The time spent by each of them was considerably over 300 hours. This included writing, computer time, preparing cases, dialoguing with their partners, practice debates with club members, debates with other clubs, conferences, tournaments, critique sessions by parents and others, teaching debate to younger students, learning how to speak clearly and persuasively, research (library, online, newspaper, and interviews), and studying history, Constitutional law, political theory, current events, world politics, our country’s founding documents, and national and international policies regarding the topic. Not every student will put in this same amount of time, but many choose to once they find out how fun it is.
Of course, fitting this amount of time into a “normal” school schedule would be impossible. Do not even try! It will lead to frustration and discouragement for the student and also the parents. But let’s look at that list again:
This included writing, computer time, preparing cases, dialoging with their partners, practice debates with club members, debates with other clubs, conferences, tournaments, critique sessions by parents and others, teaching debate to younger students, learning how to speak clearly and persuasively, research (library, online, newspaper, and interviews), and studying history, Constitutional law, political theory, current events, world politics, our country’s founding documents, and national and international policies regarding the topic.
This list is typical for every year of debate. The topic changes and therefore some of the details shift, but all of the general subjects and activity remain the same. The list makes for an amazing education all by itself! Debate yearly encompasses history, politics, current events, writing, editing, public speaking, rhetoric, research skills, typing, logic, and interpersonal skills as students learn how to work effectively with others.
As we are interested in character development, a host of further benefits arise: respect for those wiser than oneself, learning that most issues are not as clear cut as they appear on the surface, learning how to handle having one’s ideas shot down or at least having many holes put into them, learning how to receive constructive criticism and appreciating those who take the time to give it, learning how to be quiet and listen, rather than feeling compelled to justify one’s erroneous ideas, learning how to defend ideas that are worth fighting for, learning how to give to those with less experience and seeing how that approach actually makes the student learn more himself, learning how to focus on others more than oneself, developing stamina, patience, perseverance, and trust in the sovereign God, and learning to appreciate this country’s godly heritage and the price paid to establish it.
In order to be successful with debate, parents must see its value in providing most of the needed education for that year. Additional subjects should be maintained, such as Math and Physical Education, but most other areas are covered within the subject itself. They just take a different form than what one usually sees.
Debate is close to the perfect “KONOs” curriculum, because it is fairly complete and thoroughly integrated. Understanding this outlook will make education fun and interesting for the debater and will remove the guilt of the parent concerned about “fitting everything in.” The parent will be amazed at the tremendous intellectual and character growth of his student. This type of education comes naturally and will usually not need coaxing. The fun and competitive environment motivates students to work hard to learn more. In fact, the normal scenario easily becomes one in which the parent must tell the student not to spend so much time on the computer and get some other things done.
Now one must ask, “If debate becomes the vehicle to my child’s education, then how do I determine specific categories for the multiple subjects and then count credit hours towards them?”
This is simple and complex at the same time. An excellent resource, The High School Handbook, by Mary Schofield helps answer this important question. This Handbook is one of the finest and most complete “how-to” books on the market for helping you home school your high schooler. Yes, you can home school through high school. Mary Schofield’s book tells you how with such chapters as “Emergency Quick Start to Home Schooling Teens,” for those who find themselves instantly home schooling. (E8)
Most college admissions department consider a year long high school course as worth 10 credits (1 credit in Texas, take the credit numbers and divide by 10). How many hours of school work do those 10 (1 for Texas) credits represent? There is some latitude regarding this answer. Schofield explains how to figure out the number of hours of school work equal to each credit. Her calculations are based upon the average number of hours for each class in an institutional school year, since this is what most colleges are used to:
- The average institutional school meets 180 days out of the year.
- The average class time is 50 minutes long, with most teachers pleased if they accomplish 40 minutes of real instructional time. Here is where the latitude comes in:
o If one counts 180 days times 50 minutes per day, that equals 150 hours of class work for
each 10 (1) credit course. o If one counts 180 days times 40 minutes per day, that equals 120 hours of class work for
each 10 (1) credit course.
Whether a parent wants to count the instructional times as 50 minutes or minutes to derive the total number of hours towards the 10 (1) is a matter of choice.
o Simply put, colleges would expect that a one year course, valued at 10 (1) credits, would
encompass 120 to 150 hours of educational time. Whether your 10 (1) credits, 10 (1) credits represent 180 hours, 150 hours, 120 hours, or some other number, they must be justifiable. Your reasoning should be consistent and maintain integrity. For purposes of consistency, the following examples assume 150 hours per year as equaling 10 (1) credits, 75 hours as 5 (1/2) credits, and 15 hours as 1 1/10) credit.
Next consider how the student’s transcript will be formatted. Will it be by grade (Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, or Twelfth), listing subjects taken under each of these grades? Or do you want the transcript to be one in which the subject matter (Math, Biology, P.E., American History, and so forth) is simple listed with no reference as to when the student completed the material? The most common format is by grade, but by subject is also just as acceptable. Because of debate’s intermingling of subjects (and the multi-year nature of debate), it is somewhat easier to employ a subject style transcript (see the sample transcript that follows).
Next, one must determine the number of hours spent on the different subjects. Some clearly defined and distinct subjects require only basic addition and division. You simply add up the total hours and divide by 15 hours (the number of hours per 1 credit), to come up with the number of credits.
For example, if a student spends 1⁄2 hours per day over a 180 day school year playing the piano, the total number of hours spent playing for that year is 90 hours. The 90 hours spent playing the piano divided by 15 hours (per credit) gives 6 credits of piano for the year. Your child probably spends more days than that practicing piano and in many cases more time than that. Some days he may spend less, but just chose an average number and then use the following formula:
Hours (per day) x Days (per school year) / # of Credits
Some classes are not so cut and dry. Subjectivity enters when subjects overlap, such as research skills and typing, or Constitutional law and government. When this happens, one needs to add up all the related hours and decide how much time one wants to count towards each subject. This often becomes completely arbitrary, based solely upon what the teacher or principal of the home school feels is in the best interest of the student. There is no right or wrong when doing this, as long as the decision is logically justifiable. If the student has put in 180 hours of Constitutional law and government over the course of the year, the formula would be:
180 hours / 15 = 12 (1.2) Credits
The options available for these 12 (1.2) credits are: use 6 for Constitutional law and 6 for government, or split them unevenly, such as 8 for Constitutional law and 4 for government, depending on where you think the emphasis was stronger.
Besides overlapping subjects, debate frequently builds on the knowledge gained the previous year. The subject format transcript permits recording of this process in a simple manner. For example, if Economics played a role in debate several years in a row, instead of listing 2 credits for Economics for the freshman year, 1 credit for the sophomore year, and 3 credits for the junior year, just add up all related credits and list them in the subject format as: Economics – 6 credits total. This goes for all subjects. Those that carry over from year to year, such as History, Constitutional Law, Research Skills, Debate, Public Speaking, Typing, Computer Skills, Political Science, Government, Economics, and Composition, are all easily accommodated this way.
Each year the new resolution brings opportunities for specialized subjects to be added to the transcript. These might be electives, or they might be better counted under core classes (general education). Research skills and composition easily fit under the core area of English. Debate is an elective. The principal of each school or home school must determine how to classify all the hours worked.
About a week ago, a young speech and debate friend of mine introduced me to an article by Professor Minh A. Luong from Yale University. The article, titled “Forensics and College Admissions,” recorded Luong’s detailed research on how the nature of the beast, called college admissions, has changed.
As a homeschool graduate, this article stirred me. Luong articulated something that our homeschooling community is missing and a few things I wish my parents and I had known before we began picking extracurricular activities.
In regards to college admission, the first thing Luong pointed out was the erroneous assumption that the more activities your student participates in, the more admissions will like you. This is no longer the case:
“…in an increasingly complex world that demands in-depth knowledge and expertise in a chosen field of study, colleges and universities are now preferring applicants who choose to be the best at a single pursuit. ‘What counts,’ says Swarthmore College Dean of Admissions Robin Mamlet, ‘is how committed students are to an activity.’”
College admissions and scholarship committees are also beginning to value extracurricular activities over academic achievement because grade inflation and test preparation programs are distorting the reliability of those numbers.
“According to the Wall Street Journal (Interactive Edition, April 16, 1999), college admissions directors are relying less on grade point averages and standardized test scores, and are relying more on success in academically related extracurricular activities such as speech and debate as well as drama.”
Luong mentioned that at many of the top colleges, Harvard specifically, a perfect score on the SAT and a 4.0 GPA are no longer surefire ways to gain acceptance. Colleges are not looking for valedictorian students with perfect scores anymore; rather they are looking for students who have demonstrated success in focus and dedication to a particular activity.
Colleges are looking for real world experience… But not just any real world experience:
“Colleges now acknowledge, based on years of experience, that students who demonstrate success in extracurricular activities which give them real-world skills like critical thinking, oral and written communication, and the ability to organize ideas and present them effectively, perform better in college and turn out to be successful alumni who give back generously to their alma mater… The Wall Street Journal report did specifically highlight a ‘consistent trend’ – one that forensic coaches have known for a long time – that dedicated participation in drama and debate has significantly increased the success rate of college applicants at all schools which track such data.”
Colleges are specifically looking for students with experience in speech and debate and drama.
“Even without winning major awards, participation in speech and debate develops valuable skills that colleges are seeking out and that is reflected in the above average acceptance rate (+4%). Colleges and universities today are looking for articulate thinkers and communicators who will become active citizens and leaders of tomorrow.”
Luong has been in the Forensic field for the majority of his career and he noted that the students who did the best in his classes had previously been very active in their high school speech and debate group. At Yale, where Luong teaches, the Ethics, Politics, and Economics major is often known to be the “debate major” because a majority of its students were former debaters. These students have the reputation of being, “some of the brightest undergraduates at Yale.”
Aside from teaching, Luong is also a corporate advisor. In his article, he maintained that the consensus amongst him and his peers was that, “effective communication, persuasion, and leadership skills [were] ‘absolutely essential’ for success and advancement in their respective organizations.”
Many of them, however, did not attribute these skills to their graduate degree:
“One vice president told me that ‘my Ivy-League MBA got me my first job here but my forensics experience gave me the tools to be effective which led to my promotion into my present position.’”
It is a great article. You can read the full text of Luong’s article, on Forensics and College Admissions, here: http://to.pbs.org/17pkJQs
As homeschoolers, we should take this article very seriously
These skills that college admissions are looking for are the same skills that our young men and women need in order to change the world.
Can your student communicate effectively in a manner that glorifies God?
The last part of Luong’s article had a few points of advice for parents and students who were pursuing a top college or university. I have re-written them below with some added ideas for homeschooling parents who are looking to train their students to be effective communicators.
Five steps for equipping your student
- Prioritize. Look over the activities you and your student are participating in and ask yourself if
they are effectively equipping them to communicate and think critically. Remember, look for quality over quantity. Cut out activities that achieve minimal long term quality and focus in on one or two activities that do. Luong’s advice was to:
“… select an activity based on what you need to develop as a person, not necessarily what might look good on a college application or what your friends are doing. Consider the many benefits derived from participation in speech and debate that can help develop both personal and professional skills.”
- Start early and for the right reasons.
“… parents should assist their children in selecting an activity as early in their high school career as possible but they must support them for the right reasons. Living vicariously through your children or forcing your children into an activity that is intended primarily to impress friends and college admissions directors will not yield the intended results.”
- Go all out. This is where I think we trip up the most. Participating in speech and debate does equip student to do incredible things, but you can’t simply ‘add’ it to your current curriculum. It must ‘become’ your curriculum and you add the few things that it doesn’t cover.
- Compile a Portfolio:
“Many colleges will accept portfolios of work where you can demonstrate your intellectual development and progress. Do not merely list on your college application from the forensic awards that you have won but instead discuss in your personal statement or essay how you have developed your intellectual curiosity and enhanced your ability to pursue your academic interests through participation in forensics. How has dedication in forensics made you a better person ready to pursue more advanced intellectual and professional challenges?”
- Concentrate on learning rather than winning. Competition is crucial to learning how to communicate effectively, but winning is not. Winning just lets you know when your judges think you did a really good job at communicating effectively.
Forensic activities like speech and debate will help your student learn and exercise analytical and oratorical skills, but it requires a lot of commitment. However, by focusing on speech and debate, students can effectively cover the same required high school subjects and come out with twice the education.
“In my opinion, there is no better activity that will develop essential academic, professional, and life skills than dedicated involvement in speech and debate. Colleges and employers are actively seeking these skills and when it comes to selecting extracurricular activities, like many other things in life, those savvy high school students who will win admission to the best schools will select quality over quantity.”
To see the published copy of this article, visit: http://bit.ly/College-Admissions-Study