Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits
In answering this question, I wish to draw attention to the fact that
the value of pitting students against each in argumentative contests
has been recognized for some 2500 years. The practice was well
known to the Greeks, the Romans and debate and disputation were at the
core of the curriculum provided by Medieval universities. Such
a long tradition gives strong support to the idea that the advantages
of the activity transcend variations in format. Whether done with
three people (a practice that was employed early in the last century),
two people , or one person, debate has proven valuable for those who
took the time to engage in the activity. Whether students are
debating propositions of policy, fact or value may not be all that important
for the activity teaches much the same lessons whether students debate
unilateral military intervention or the vagaries of the hearsay rule.
Debate, in all of its forms and each of its varieties, teaches students
to speak well, to listen carefully, to think critically and to arrange
their ideas in coherent and persuasive speech.
In 1908, Edwin Shurter proclaimed that “Perhaps no study equals debate
in the acquirement of the power of logical thinking combined with clear
expression.” What he said was true then and true now.
When the former CEO of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca, provided an homage
to his high school debate coach he was paying tribute to debate as it
was 70 years ago and yet his commentary rings true today:
"...I joined the debating team, which
was sponsored by Mr. Virgil Parks, our Latin teacher. That's where I
developed my speaking skills and learned to think on my feet. At first
I was scared to death. I had butterflies in my stomach - and to this
day I still get a little nervous before giving a speech. But the experience
of being on the debating team was crucial. You can have brilliant ideas,
but if you can't get them across, your brains won't get you anywhere"
Writing in the 1970s, Helen Wise, then
president of the National Education Association, offered a glowing tribute
to the virtues of debate. That the debate of that time is quite
different from many forms of debate done today does not diminish the
force of her endorsement:
"No college freshman can project 25 years
to decide what he needs to learn - subject matter is easily forgotten
and in today's world, the knowledge explosion makes constant learning
an inevitability. But all adults today need to be able to communicate
with clarity, to articulate ideas, to reason, to separate key facts
from the barrage of ideas we all are exposed to every day. No single
activity can prepare one better than debating - the ability to think
on one's feet, to form conclusions rapidly, to answer questions logically
and with clarity, to summarize ideas are all processes which forensics
activity develop and develop"
As Austin Freely has observed in each
edition of his text, Argumentation and Debate,
“Debate is today, as it has been since classical times, one of the
best methods of learning and applying the principles of critical thinking.”
Why Don’t You Do Individual
By any measure one can imagine, individual events competition largely
duplicates what is available in the other venues we offer. In mock trial,
for example, one is provided with opportunities to master the very same
skills that are allegedly taught by such events as extemp, oratory,
and impromptu. Parliamentary debate also teaches the same skills.
Additionally, those who serve as a witness in mock trials must master
many of the same skills that are taught by the interpretation events.
Breathing life into a text, the master recipe for oral interpretation,
is something that is common to both activities.
While mock trial and
parliamentary debate may not teach everything one can learn at an individual
events tournament, I would venture to say that it comes pretty close.
My guess is that if some insane person were to list the 100 behavioral
objectives taught by competing in IEs, mock trial would teach at least
98 of those sub-lessons. Even a larger gap in the overlap would be inconsequential
as both mock trial and parliamentary debate teaches the lessons
in more rigorous academic environments. Extemp speakers speak their
piece and sit down. Nothing that the speaker says is likely to be challenged
by a subsequent speaker nor is the so-called "extemp" speaker
ever obligated to respond directly to a speech given just minutes before.
The presence of determined opposition makes portraying a witness considerably
more difficult that simply reciting a monologue from a play. Cross-examination
adds an element of improvisational theater to interp's simple monologue.
Creating a direct examination teaches a considerable amount about how
to structure a dialogue for dramatic effect. Mock trial teaches that
lesson and traditional individual events does not. In an era where funds
are limited and travel prices always outpace inflation, it makes sense
to focus on the more academically rigorous events.
Does Macalester Have
Debate or Mock Trial Scholarships?
No, Macalester does not offer scholarships
for debate or mock trial. Nor, for that matter, does it offer
scholarships for soccer, basketball, or the bassoon. The Macalester
Debate Union consists of people who compete because they enjoy their
events and not because they are being paid to play. While Macalester
does not offer scholarships for participating in debate or mock trial,
it does offer scholarships to budding young scholars. In 2009-2010,
67% of the first year class received financial aid and the average need-based
award was almost 32,000 dollars. Macalester remains committed to meeting
the full demonstrated financial need of every student offered admission
to the College.
How Much Does It Cost
The College covers most of the costs associated with tournament travel.
The program pays for tournament entry fees, air and ground transportation,
lodging, a team meal at the tournament, and provides a small per diem
to cover other meals.
Does Tournament Travel
Drag Down The GPA?
No. If competing gets in the way of you performing in class, you
won’t be allowed to travel. The team’s policy is much stricter
than the College’s policy in this regard. A student who winds
up on the Academic Warning list will not be permitted to travel to tournaments
and it is unlikely that getting off that list will get you back on the
team. While there are some programs where competitors take five
or six years to complete their degree, Macalester is not one of those
programs. Our team members have all graduated in four years or
less and have gone on to the graduate or professional schools of their
choice. Here is a list of the some of the places where
members of the Macalester Debate Union have earned advanced degrees:
Harvard Law, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell,
Yale Law, Virginia Law, NYU Law, Northwestern Law, Texas-Austin, Michigan Law, Stanford Law, University of Southern California,
MIT, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Iowa Law, University of Illinois, Harvard Kennedy
School of Government, UC-Berkeley, Michigan, Pittsburgh, NYU, University of Belfast, University
of London, Catholic Law, Cardozo School of Law, Harvard Medical School, Vanderbilt Law, Georgetown
Law, Tulane Law, Kansas, Arizona, Minnesota, UC-San Diego, UCLA, Claremont Graduate
School, Harvard Divinity School, George Washington Law, Minnesota Law
Who Is The Coach?
Macalester’s Director of Forensics
is an old man named Dick Lesicko.
I started coaching college debate in 1975. I started as an assistant
coach at Mac. After a few years running the program at The University
of Texas at Austin, I came back to Macalester in 1984. I have coached
a few teams that have won first-round bids to the NDT, coached a few
more that have reached the round of 16 at the NDT, coached a couple
of teams that won CEDA Nationals, and coached more than a dozen
teams to the round of 16 at CEDA Nationals. I started coaching
mock trial in 1993. I have coached a team that won the American
Mock Trial Association’s Silver Flight National Tournament and coached
four teams that have won the National Invitational Mock Trial Tournament.
Between debate and mock trial, I have had 28 teams finish in the top
ten at their respective national tournament and16 teams win their multi-state
regional championship tournament.