GREAT ARTICLE FROM SEPTEMBER 2017 HIGH SCHOOL TODAY published by National Federation of High Schools.

National Speech and Debate Association Advocacy Page 

(rich with resources, letters of support, research, etc.)

The KYNSDA Advocacy Project

In 2016, in his keynote address to the SPEAK Conference, Kentucky District Chair Steve Meadows called for a statewide project that would mirror one he has approached the NSDA about conducting -- collecting information coaches and teachers can use to advocate for educational and competitive speech and debate.  Several coaches then joined together to read research and published articles and produced the advocacy "nuggets" listed here on this page.  If you have other informational bites to add to this list, please type them in the box at the bottom of the page.  

Many thanks to the following individuals who contributed to this page:  Beth Marlowe (Danville High School), Janet Martin (Bowling Green High School), Steve Meadows (Danville High School), Betsy Smith (KESDA).

Extracurricular activities like forensics are playing an increasingly important role in the college admissions as well as the scholarship awarding processes. Why? Grade inflation is rampant in both public and private secondary schools and test preparation programs are distorting the reliability of national standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. According to the Wall Street Journal, 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..."

- Minh A. Luong, Yale Professor. “Forensics and College Admissions.”

Deards, Paul. "Making the Case for Teaching Students to Debate." Education Week. Editorial Projects in

Education, 01 May 2016. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.


  •  It has been demonstrated already that debaters in high school show improved academic performance and fewer disciplinary and behavioral problems than non-debaters.
  • Student debaters also have a much higher likelihood of attending and graduating from college than their non-debater peer groups.
  •  Debate curriculum teaches young people much of what they’ll need to know in these areas by active, engaging, and highly direct means. (grit, creativity, collaboration, research, empathy)
  • Research  tells us that middle school is a period of considerable brain growth with the shift from concrete to abstract processing and growing capabilities in problem solving, planning, and critical thinking. Debate can support and enhance brain development as an activity requiring and honing these skills.

"Debate can support and enhance brain development as an activity requiring and honing. . . skills" such as "the shift from concrete to abstract processing and growing capabilities in problem solving, planning, and critical thinking."


Debate requires students to "think through issue[s] with an open mind and, channel empathy, to see how others might present a case in which they might not personally believe."
 "the ability to cite sources is critical."
"draft persuasive language to convey the points."
"facility with consolidation is key"
Debate gives students practice with identifying truly important information out of the volumes they can find at their fingertips.
"Stand in front of a crowd and speak"
"think on their feet"
"listen carefully"
"Teamwork is critical"
“the rewards of hard work are immediately evident."
"it teaches many of the so-called softer skills now linked to future success."


 "Paul Tough, in his book How Children Succeed, focus on young people’s need for subtler abilities. These skills, loosely categorized as elements of emotional intelligence, include the capacity to persevere through setbacks (grit), the facility to bring existing knowledge to a novel situation (creativity), comfort in working with others and knowing when to lead and when to follow (collaboration), the capability to confront the seemingly infinite volumes of information on any topic and select the relevant data (research), and sensitivity to what a target audience is thinking so that such data can be presented persuasively (empathy). The debate curriculum teaches young people much of what they’ll need to know in these areas by active, engaging, and highly direct means."
"If we want future generations of students to see beyond the haze of 24-hour news punditry and to use critical thinking to get to the heart of what’s important, if we want them to go beyond participating in a conversation to actually raising the level of national discourse, and if we want them to stop the use of contrived political debate as a tool of distraction and begin its use as a tool to address complex problems, we had better start teaching them the means to do so early."


Spectrum, Elizabeth Karagianis Editor. "Students on Debate Team Learn to Explain and Persuade Skillfully." MIT

News. MIT, 11 Apr. 2001. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.

 Parliamentary debate, with its emphasis on impromptu speaking, develops excellent communication skills and teaches you to think on your feet.

Students say debate also prepares them to work in a global community by teaching them about social, political and moral issues. Topics like gun control. Abortion. Affirmative action. Or the crisis in the Middle East.

Mr. Krishnan said one of the great benefits of the team is that he and his teammates agree to disagree. "We probably have more arguments on political issues among ourselves than we do with our opponents, but I've developed the ability not to take that personally. The ability to argue with someone and disagree, but still respect them, is really a top-notch quality."

“Public speaking is a great skill to have in life.”

. . .debate “develops excellent communication skills and teaches you to think on your feet.”

 . . .“learn to analyze issues and come up with solutions.”

 “teaches. . .eye contact and effective gestures -- and teaches students poise, presence and confidence.”

“It helped me to think fast and come up with answers on the spur of the moment."

“Now I'm able to talk to people and communicate my ideas.”

"And it's a great way to network."

“Being a leader means you have to be able to convince others and explain your ideas.”

5 Reasons Everyone Should Take a Public Speaking Course

USA Today College-Jan. 16, 2004

Although the majors that are most in demand vary from time to time, the skills that employers seek in their new applicants are nearly identical year after year. A 2013 survey by the National Association of College and Employers found that the ability to communicate effectively is the quality employers most want to see in new recruits.

Listening may be a lost art, but a public speaking course actually teaches you to become a better listener.

A public speaking course is almost guaranteed to build your confidence. 


Alumni Quotations about Speech:

“Debate requires you to work closely with a team of peers in high-pressure situations and be fully committed to the success of the team,” said Roshni Bhatnagar ’11, a rising medical school student at Northwestern University. “There’s no better way to practice effective leadership and teamwork skills.”

 “Debate was perhaps the most valuable aspect of my formal education,” said Alex Iftimie ’03, now counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security at the U.S. Department of Justice. “Leaving aside the oft-cited points that debate teaches critical- thinking and communication skills, debate taught me to be a competitor – to have the drive and determination to succeed – and instilled a confidence that I could reason my way through any legal or policy issue.”

“Speech and debate has helped me in a lot of different ways,” said Frank Wang ’08, a doctoral candidate at MIT in computer science. “Most of the research I do requires positioning my research in a way that’s attractive to reviewers. Many Ph.D. students spend the first two years trying to learn that, but I had a head start on that. Speech and debate has made me a better researcher and a better leader.”


This article was sponsored by St John’s-Ravenscourt School. Over the last 28 years, students at the Canadian school have been named World Debating Champion on 14 occasions.

Twelve Ways Debating Will Help You For the Rest of Your Life

Be a better critical thinker
Articulate your thoughts
Education is key
Think on your feet
Conflict resolution
Show some empathy
Keep your emotions in check
Construct meaning out of complex situations
Presentation skills
Confidence boost
Be more socially conscious
An expanded worldview

Speech and Debate: Oprah’s Gateway to Success  By Caroline Kitchner

 Oprah Winfrey mastered vocal and expression skills competing on her high school forensics team.
Participation in speech and debate at James Logan High School more than doubles the likelihood of attending college for members of that underprivileged student body.
Empowering students to find their voices gives them self-confidence at a crucial period of their development.

The Critical Role of Oral Language in Reading for Title I and ELL Students
By Elizabeth Brooke, Ph.D.

Children enter kindergarten with dramatically different oral language skills.
Students from high SES families benefit from exposure to more descriptive language, expansive narrations, and positive reinforcement.
Print-rich environments encourage reading and print concepts in preschoolers.
Children in homes in which English is not spoken enter school at a significant disadvantage.
Children in low SES homes seldom have the benefit of expanding their background experiences.
There is a correlation between parental education level and a child’s oral language and vocabulary skills.
The children with limited oral language skills enter school with a disadvantage.
Oral language skills include phonology, vocabulary, grammar, morphology, pragmatics, and discourse.
The instruction required to overcome early disadvantages in oral language skills is intensive and must be very intentional and precisely targeted.
Oral language instruction should not wait until a child can read.

Why America’s Obsession with STEM Education is Dangerous
By Fareed Zakaria
Bad test scores in STEM courses prompt increasing initiatives to deemphasize the humanities as expensive luxuries.
The United States has a long and unique educational tradition of broad-based learning that fosters critical thinking skills and creativity.
U.S. students have never performed well on the sort of international tests measuring math and science skills, but this has not prevented the country from leading the world in science and innovation for the past fifty years.
Confident, flexible thinkers in a culture of energy and dynamism produce innovative solutions.
Innovation arises from creativity, critical thinking, and optimism—products of broad-based learning.
Innovation keeps companies on the cutting edge in the 21st century.

10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success
Tom Vander Well
Theatre demands the ability to improvise quickly, teaching focus and how to maintain an illusion of control under pressure.
A production mimics a business project accomplished by teams of people working toward a common goal.
Theatre teaches you to work creatively within a limited budget.
Theatre teaches you to deal with a variety of people.
Performing gives an actor tools for understanding and observing other people.
Involvement in a small liberal arts theatre teaches forces students to master many jobs, teaching you that you can do whatever job needs to be done.
In theatre you will survive periods of incredibly hard work that result in something amazing, however fleeting.
Theatre forces you to make difficult choices, especially in a directing role.
Theatre gives you the skill to stand confidently before people and effectively communicate, entertain, and motivate.
Theatre teaches you to do the best with what you have.

What Should Students Learn in the 21st Century?
By Charles Fadel

The education system is failing to connect its massive content to any real-world experience.
Arts may be a way of fostering needed creativity across disciplines.
21st century skills must include creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
Character education should combine both performance-related traits and moral-related traits.
Education must incorporate a meta-layer, adapting to individual students and local needs, examining interdisciplinarity, fostering curiosity, and encouraging lifelong learning.
Schools must respond to work force and societal needs and focus on acquired skills as they relate to real problems and issues.

Beyond the Classroom: Developing Students’ Professional Social Skills
By Merry J. Sleigh and Darren R. Ritzer

Social skill development, including instruction in critical thinking, communication, and time management, is lacking in the schools.
Professional social skills are among the most valued among employers.
A few ways teachers can teach professional interpersonal skills in the classroom include:

-designing a syllabus that focuses on these skills

-guiding student interactions in a more professional direction --introducing psychological/behavioral concepts

-requiring that students do oral presentations

-incorporating guest speakers

-career building workshops

-modeling the behaviors they wish to foster in their students