"What Do You Mean By, 'Debate Like a Girl?'"

Posted on July 02, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Let's be honest. The colloquial phrase, "like a girl," hasn't been a terribly flattering one. As a kid, it was a sneering insult that made an otherwise innocuous term sound like a four-letter word.

You hit like a girl.

You run like a girl.

You fight like a girl.

It is as if doing something "like a girl," meant that the effort was less than ideal. This brilliant video from Always was recently launched tackling this rhetoric.

 Similarly, Verizon paired up with Makers to illustrate the subtle ways in which girls and young women are discouraged from expressing their curiosity and critical thinking skills. 

Many people will contend that the necessity for gender equality has passed. There aren't any rules preventing women from becoming doctors, astronauts, mothers, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, or politicians. Some may point out statistics that show a greater percentage of women enrolling in college to illustrate that everything is going great.

Except when it comes to representation in politics. Or only 3% serving as Chief Executive Officers. Oh, what about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields? Nope, that's not too hot either.

One would think that being a highly influential leader in a public debate would mean that the content and quality of one's arguments would be the most important factor. They are, unless you happen to demonstrate some semblance emotion. Then journalists will pose the question, "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back into the White House?"

So let's start reclaiming what it means to do things like a girl. Young women and girls can be as passionate, critical, articulate, argumentative, competitive, and successful as they want to be. There is no shortage of desire, curiosity, or talent among today's young women. That's why we're selling our "Debate Like a Girl" shirts and donating the proceeds to the Women's Debate Institute. The funds will help cover the cost of their tuition-free debate camp for high school and college aged girls. 

The shirts also give you the opportunity to start discussing the power and potential of young women in forensics and debate. Though it isn't perfect, this activity celebrates the accomplishments, intelligence, passion, charisma, and efforts of a diverse community of individuals. If someone asks you what it means to "Debate like a girl," you have your answer. 

Debating like a girl means using passion, critical thinking, logic, and strategy. How else would they do it?  

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All Of the Out Round Participants At the 2014 AFA-NIET

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

We'd love to title this something exciting like INDY SWEEPS CONTENDERS!! But, without having the original entry, we don't know who qualifies.

PLUS, we wanted to celebrate everyone who made out rounds but only gets one clap at awards.


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23 Year Old Forensics Alum Running For Mayor

Posted on May 07, 2013 by Stephanie Alderdice

If you think about it, campaigning for public office bears a striking resemblance to competing at a forensics tournament. The days are long, you meet tons of people, you make plenty of speeches, and you're energized by a mix of passion, ambition, and nerves. And in the end, if you've been able to persuade the people listening to your message, you come out on top.

Hopefully the parallels prove useful for William Igbokwe. At twenty-three, Igbokwe is making waves as one of three candidates campaigning for mayor in Jacksonville, Texas. Described as "candid, thoughtful, and well-spoken," the University of Texas graduate isn't letting the age gap intimidate him. (Igbokwe is twenty to fifty years younger than the other candidates.) With the election on May 10th, we were fortunate to get a little bit of time to learn how forensics has helped Igbokwe on the path to public office.


Did you compete in high school forensics? I competed for Jacksonville High school on the UIL circuit in Texas. For four years, I was the only person on my forensics team. I competed in Extemporaneous Speaking and Prose Interpretation.

What skills did you learn in forensics that have helped you on the campaign trail? There are an assortment of skills that I've acquired through forensics that have assisted me tremendously on the campaign trail. The two that have been my greatest ally is the ability to speak extemporaneously and the ability to keep composure during high pressure situations. Particularly, the ability to speak extemporaneously has been especially invaluable. While on the campaign trail, I've been interviewed numerous times by media without any prior knowledge as to what these news outlets would be asking specifically (thanks, media!). Additionally, I also participated in a Mayoral debate where, again, there was no way to know what was going to be asked of me specifically, ahead of time. However, rather than trying to prep out answers to possible questions, I relied upon my experience in "speaking off the cuff", forensics style, to guide me to a solid performance. The ability to slow down your thoughts, control your fluency, alter syntax, and select powerful verbiage to enhance whatever point you're trying to get across to an audience is an art form I've been working to improve for over a decade. Fortunately, having been just one year out of college forensics, I haven't accumulated too much rust on that very important skill set.

What inspired you to run for Mayor? I've always been interested in public policy and the chance to serve as a public official. That is an interest that I will likely never outgrow. The inspiration to run for Mayor, however, derived from a conversation I had with a friend (also a forensics alumnus, also on the campaign team) about the impact young people can have on their communities. Eventually, that conversation evolved into a possible Mayoral bid for my hometown.-- I'm from a town with a population of roughly 20,000 people. In the last Mayoral election, less than two percent of the entire population (409 people) participated in the voting process. As a Political Communication major with the prospect of returning home a year before election season to launch a campaign, I saw an opportunity to help stir within my community a passion for civic engagement or, at the very least, an opportunity to help my community better understand its importance. I jumped at the opportunity.

If elected, what would be your goals? If elected, I have four primary goals for Jacksonville, Texas. 1. Enhance the city's aesthetics, 2. Revitalize the community's job prospects, 3. Promote education in Jacksonville to the extent that the community evolves into a pillar of educational success and overachievement in the greater East Texas community, and 4. Lay the foundation for what will be a strong relationship between city government and engaged citizens for years to come. My perspective on community issue can be accessed in greater detail via my campaign website, www.IgbokweforJacksonville.co

Do you have any advice for forensicators interested in public service? For forensicators who dream of public office, I have two pieces of advice. 1. Understand that every performance, regardless of genre, that you construct and deliver in this activity will in some way assist you in developing the core skills you'll need to succeed as a public official; composure, articulateness, the ability to address an audience, speaking extemporaneously, et cetera. 2. You must always stay the course. Seeking public office, especially if you are young and baby-faced, can be grueling and you will not be without your share of detractors. But seeking public office is a lot like doing well at tournament: You're often in a suit, you likely have a message, you certainly have an audience, and if you can convince enough of the right people that your message is the most powerful, the end result will work itself out.

And to anyone in forensics pursing whatever it is that makes them happy, you, as well, must always stay the course. People are entitled to their opinion(s) about whatever you're doing or pursuing. However you, too, are entitled to an opinion about your pursuit of happiness.

Fortunately, only one of those opinions matter.

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READ THIS: Appreciating the Supporters of Speakers

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Stephanie Alderdice


It's easy to get tunnel-vision in forensics. You've got a tournament on the horizon. You need to research, write, memorize, and practice. You have work sessions with your coach. You show your events to alumni who competed a year or two ago. At tournaments, your head is in the game. Outside of tournaments, you're dissecting speech and debate with the people who know it best.

It's easy to focus on the people who understand forensics the most. Your coaches, teammates, and alumni understand the minutia about the activity that may get lost on other people. Topicality? Inherency? Character pops versus character melds? It sounds like gibberish to many, but the people who speak this language help you improve. They're in the center of the activity, the center of the human pyramid. Without them, it seems, you wouldn't be able to excel in the activity.

It's easy to forget that there are a lot of people who don't necessarily "speak speech" but are crucial to its existence. They're on the outside of the pyramid, but they actively support the whole thing.

Columnist Mike Pound of Joplin, Missouri, reflected on being a parent judge at his daughter's debate tournament. Calling it a "risky venture," Pound's column offers a third party viewpoint of forensics that we aren't often provided. The article is rife with references to his own perceptions of intellectual inadequacy when judging the "smart" kids. His daughter reminds him to tell debaters that he is a parent judge so they will "dumb down" their arguments. He judges some interp events and largely enjoys the experience. There is an undercurrent of exclusivity in the article. Pound paints himself as an outsider willing to sacrifice a Saturday to help his daughter's team.

It's easy to lament lay judges - the parents, teachers, and volunteers who never competed or coached but are willing to help. We spend our weekdays working on nuanced performances and arguments that we hope experienced judges will appreciate. Then, we get disappointed or angry when they go unnoticed by volunteers. (We're just as guilty at poking fun of ballots that provide little criticism or justification for ranks.) We forget, sometimes, that the forensics community is more than just coaches, competitors, and alumni. Tournaments cannot run without judges. Teams cannot exist without administrative support. Supplies cannot get purchased without budgets. The knowledge you bring to competition is built upon the knowledge of your coach(es), but also the teachers you've had in other subjects throughout the years.

Speakers need supporters. We need volunteers who are willing to sell concessions, judge rounds, raise funds, sign forms, and organize team functions. Sometimes these supporters can't give us the critical feedback we would like on our ballots. But it is worth remembering that without their help, there may not even be a tournament to attend. 

The phrase, "Thank you for judging," shouldn't just be a formality - but a sincere expression of gratitude. Take some time this month to thank your supporters. If you haven't, maybe your team could sign thank you notes to put in the mail. 

The smallest act of appreciation can go a long way in getting other people interested in forensics. 

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TRY THIS: Put an End to "Forensic-Hating"

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Stephanie Alderdice


If you weren't aware, October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness month. From Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center to Do Something, organizations everywhere are casting a spotlight on this troublesome behavior. People are firing up their Mean Girls DVDs, opening their copies of Queen Bees and Wannabes, and coaches are reminiscing when Heathers was topical. Whether it's physical, verbal, emotional, or digital, harassing other individuals for any reason isn't cool. At all. Seriously. 

You would think that forensics, an activity that debates morality, discusses ethics, and examines the human condition would be immune to bullying and harassment. We are enlightened individuals! We research...FOR FUN. We play with our emotions...FOR TROPHIES. 

But sadly, even speech can be a pressure cooker of harassment. From internet jokes designed to degrade other competitors, online commentators engaging in snark fest of national final round performances, to countless conversations at tournaments about the things seen in and outside of rounds - we've witnessed how pointed people can be when it comes to the speech community. 

Maybe we're so used to being under the spotlight and being critiqued, we feel better about ourselves through judging others. Maybe nitpicking other people is a way to prove 'we know what we're doing.' Maybe it's just plain ole human nature.

This month, try to identify and correct "Forensic-hating." If you see someone trashing a competitor or teammate, take a stand. Even if people get defensive and insist you're making a big deal out of a joke, remind them that there's nothing funny about tearing someone down. If you, or someone you know, is getting harassed by people (through speech or not) tell an authority figure. If they don't do something, find someone who will. If you think you may be guilty of being overly critical, making jokes at someone's expense, or trashing another teammate's or competitor's performance, it is never too late to apologize and put a stop to it. There are too many tragic cases where harassment goes too far.

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