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Competition, Community, and Educational Growth

Contemporary Perspectives on Competitive Speech and Debate

Edited By Kristopher Copeland and Garret L. Castleberry

Competition, Community, and Educational Growth: Contemporary Perspectives on Competitive Speech and Debate is an up-to-date text providing informed academic thought concerning the impact of forensics. Its primary focus is to demonstrate how the forensic activity allows students to actively engage and learn outside the classroom. Specifically, Competition, Community, and Educational Growth focuses on how students educationally grow through the activity. The book frames methods and pedagogy as best practices to provide educational growth for students and explicitly connect learning outcomes for students. Coming from the perspective of higher educational instructors, the book provides insight beyond the high school experience. Competition, Community, and Educational Growth examines contemporary perspectives on competitive speech and debate theory, experience, and methods of instruction.

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Chapter 21: Preserving Freedom of Speech and Forensics: Alternative Formats in Performance Communication (Jeffery Gentry)


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Preserving Freedom of Speech and Forensics: Alternative Formats in Performance Communication



Research in communication testifies to the educational value of intercollegiate forensics. For example, Billings surveyed college forensic alumni who gave high marks to the activity for enjoyment, long-lasting friendships, and skills that aided their careers.1 Lux’s study found enhanced communication skills, critical thinking skills, professional conduct, knowledge, and listening.2 The purported benefits of forensic competition would fill perhaps thousands of pages. This chapter accepts the competitive model’s value. However, it questions whether competition and forensics are indelibly connected. College forensics need not be conflated with intercollegiate forensic competition. Understanding this reality can help us manage myriad challenges bedeviling higher education and the broader American culture in the twenty-first century.


Most justifications of forensics feature one stakeholder: the student-competitor. Although they benefit from competition, forensics has become a “private good.”3 Threats to higher-education funding mean student-learning and career preparation are no longer sufficient to justify the high costs. Lux identifies the long-standing dilemma of forensics as a costly co-curricular program.4 Travel costs, the long season, coaches’ salaries, and scholarships weigh against the new ← 231 | 232 → normal of reduced revenue for higher education. Entire programs face elimination; those remaining are often the first to receive budget cuts. Goodnight and Mitchell even question how long the “debate tournament economy” remains viable.5

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