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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Defamatory, Malicious Misinfo... oh, wait, nope: Documents

Indulge me as I sweat the small stuff:

At a meeting yesterday at Madison High School, Principal Sharon Knowlton had some fun throwing around words like "defamatory," "malicious," and "misinformation" to describe what I do on the Madville Times. (Those might be harsher words than Principal Stapert used the last time I got called to the principal's office. ;-) ).

Among the "misinformation" is my statement that Madison Central doesn't cancel classes for the Mundt Debate Tournament but simply does an early release, shortening classes and letting kids out early after lunch. For most of the history of the tournament, that was how the school district accommodated the contest without losing a day of school, which is how most schools handle tournaments.

Mrs. Knowlton insisted that my shoddy journalism missed the fact that Madison has cancelled classes for the entire Friday of Mundt for a long time, and that that willingness to cancel classes demonstrates even more the school's commitment to making the tournament work.

Now this is a small point. And heck, sometimes when I've been at Mundt coaching my own kids and judging, I've been too busy to pay attention to whether classes were in session or not. I do get things wrong.

Let's review the most recent contest dates to which Mrs. Knowlton seemed to refer:
Of course, that's just what the MHS website says. I could be wrong... and that's why the comment line is open. Clarifications are welcome (and a lot more convenient than having me call the school and take up Charla's time every time I want to write a blog post, wouldn't you think, Sharon?).

By the way, there's a big South Dakota debate tournament honoring another great South Dakota Senator, the 17th Annual George McGovern Forensics Tournament at Mitchell High School Friday and Saturday. And check out their schedule: they manage to host a full tournament without even an early release.

As the Vulcan proverb goes, there are always possibilities.

One thing I know for sure, the Mundt Tournament is going to be looking for volunteers to help run the 2009 contest (February 13–14, when everyone else does indeed get the day off school!). If you're interested, give the school a call: Superintendent Vince Schaefer is at 256-7700; HS Principal Sharon Knowlton is at 256-7706.


  1. Sharon Knowlton doesn't like free speech, being able to express opinions and any type of dissent. She is a control freak and is vindictive when confronted or challenged. High School students should be encouraged to become individuals instead of being molded to her cookie-cutter beliefs of what she wants them to be which is obedient and subservient. Unfortunately, student growth is being stifled and individualism is discouraged at Madison High School. The Mundt Debate is just another item on her hit list.

  2. With all due respect, Anon, those are some pretty nasty words. If you think it's appropriate to write those comments on someone else's blog (without even backing up your allegations with any facts), the least you could do is put your name to it. You're not exactly contributing to improving anything. You're just making things worse.

  3. Anon--
    Pretty sharp of you ------ using an old debate trick, namecalling, to achieve your purpose. Anyone who would agree with you would seem to be only angry, but basically uninformed, as Erin stated. If you are tough enough to make claims, be honorable enough to leave names ---- yours, that is.

  4. Careful Dan, that's an old political debate trick. Those types of 'tricks' won't get you very far at the Mundt tournament.

  5. Good call, Erin! Say what you will, but back it up... most importantly, with your name, as I always do.

    And good call, Dan and Brett! One more reason to keep the Mundt Tournament in Madison: it's a great place to teach young people how to win an argument the right way!

    Perhaps the tournament needs a slogan: "Mundt We do debate right!"

  6. Don't need to be careful since I'm not intending on entering the Mundt anyway. Old age has left me with the attitude that I don't need to worry about speaking the truth, and the truth remains that discussion's purpose is to solve problems. No problems are solved by unsubstantiated namecalling by unnamed participants. No courage, no credence -- so guess I don't have to be careful. However, I do thoroughly believe in the "art" of debate and what it accomplishes in our society. I sincerely hope that we can maintain a powerful tradition, the Mundt.

  7. Purpose of discussion: finding solutions. Couldn't agree more.

    But then you got me thinking, Dan: maybe we need an adults division at Mundt. We could sell tickets! Dan Bohl vs. Myron Downs, Gene Hexom vs. Gale Pifer, Elisa Sand vs. Matt Groce, me vs.... heck! I'll take you all on! Yaarrr! :-D

  8. I love it! Steel-Cage Debate Matches!


  9. I tend to mistrust people with overly developed communication skills, but we clearly need future leaders who know how to express themselves. People who take facts and accurately describe and move us, which requires practice. Karl Mundt used his skills and influence to better our community. What a waste if we loose a tradition that honors an important man from our history. John Hess

  10. I fail to see the logic in giving up a prestigious activity that brings notoriety and economic benefit to Madison. So it takes a little work to make it happen - most things of worth and consequence do.

    The high school is wanting to make renovations, even though there is no money in the capital outlay fund for such, which was one headline last week. And another was that the high school wanted to give up on the Mundt tournament. Kind of a dichotomy, don't ya think!

  11. Not sure this is the right spot to make this comment but because the author of this blog seems to find much more space to criticize and find negative things to comment on I thought this might be a good place to point out an incredible event held here in Madison at DSU this evening. We had a presentation by Dr. Jose Alonzo, director of the DUSEL project. It was attended by over 200 students, faculty, staff and members of the community. High school faculty, students and adminstrators attended this event alongside our greater community and the DSU community. Hmmmm maybe there is something good happening regarding education right here in Madison! Maybe we will find a way to continue the Mundt in a coordinated, collaborative, cost effective manner despite what the author of this blog would like people to believe. Doug Knowlton

  12. Hey, boss, don't you have your own blog for promoting campus events? ;-)

    Now, hang on, boss: where do you get the idea I want people to believe that we can't find a way to continue the Mundt Tournament? Read the posts and check with the other two people who were at Tuesday's meeting, and you'll understand that we all share exactly the same goal: keeping the Mundt Tournament in Madison.

    I just happen to believe that an important part of making that happen is busting through the conceptual barriers I've heard some folks try to throw in the way of continuing the Mundt Tournament at full strength. "Overwhelming" "too big" -- those aren't my words. I've been saying "Yes we can" from word one, as has almost every other commenter here. We all believe keeping Mundt is important. My "negative" words seek only to point out the practical impact of the cutbacks Madison Central has proposed: make Mundt smaller, and we lose it to Harrisburg. I want to find the solutions that keep that from happening and keep Mundt in Madison. And the best solution on the table is to keep Mundt at Madison High School, the tournament's proud home for 41 years.

  13. Just had a wonderful (in my mind) post that I lost when trying to post it. Have to remember to save it first next time!

    Anyway, this tourney needs to stay in Madison. Apparently the powers that be all agree here? Then, lets be honest about the reasons this issue even came up.

    1. The custodian issues has been completely debunked because it doesn't seem to be an issue for athletic events!

    2. Knowlton's acknowledge money is not the issue.

    3. Need help? ASK! Put an ad in the paper or word of mouth.

    4. Kids miss a couple of hours of school? Doesn't seem to be a big deal if it's for a sports event, which causes many more lost classroom hours than this debate tourney.

    5. Too big? Get real. Madison needs to keep anything that brings business in town, and the bigger the better. This should be strongly supported by the city if for nothing other than economic reasons, to say nothing of the good PR.

    I plan to call in and volunteer. I was never in debate, but I can answer phones, register kids, be a runner, work in concessions, etc.

    I still volunteer yearly at Destination Imagination (formerly Odyssey of the Mind) and have for years coaching and judging. Lots of fun and a good feeling at the end of the day. BTW, another program that seems to have bit the dust in Madison. What ever happened to this? Other schools seems to have a flourishing program, probably without a gifted coordinator on staff in many cases. This also brought lots of people (translate money and PR) into Madison in years past.

    In short, keep the Mundt debate in Madison!


  14. Is the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee involved in the Mundt Debate? That may be a source of volunteers. Most businesses don't know about the debate until they see the buses in town. It is important to give kids many opportunities and they gain so much more than a couple of extra hours in the class. Good PR for DSU and Madison and great chance for kids to learn to express themselves. The Madison debate coach and principal have to be on board too.

  15. Anon 8:02: best idea I've heard this morning! That's officer thinking! Put another stripe on that man/woman's sleeve!

  16. Jackrabit1:

    Matt, I think you just figured out what should be on the next MHS debate t-shirts!

    And cheers to Nonnie for her plans to call MHS and volunteer to help with Mundt. That's the spirit!

  17. Here's another idea. Many of us know how great a resource Facebook can be for communicating with people. If someone connected with Mundt forms a Facebook event to recruit volunteers for the tournament, I'm sure it would be a great way to get the word out and get people to sign on to help out.

  18. Heck, Erin... I'll do my part... no charge for the slogan! LOL

  19. Dr. Knowlton~

    That's a very good collaborative event, indeed. It's incredibly impressive to get that many people to any sort of lecture, and I'm glad you brought Madisonians' attention to it.

    However, I'm not certain that I understand its relevance to the pretty substantive discussion about what to do with Mundt (aside from giving you the opportunity to back yourself into a snide comment about your perception of this blog as "negative").

    In fact, while you espouse reverence for coordination and collaboration in education, kicking Mundt out of MHS is a big step backwards in community-wide collaboration. For the past 30-plus years, MHS, DSU, and the Greater Madison community have worked together to bring hundreds of students and coaches to the Mundt and support them in their participation in this enriching activity. What I hear from the school district at this point is a message that they're tired of collaborating. They want out; they may or may not want someone else to pick up the slack. That's not collaboration. That's abidcation.

    So, please don't try to portray the school administration throwing its hands up at being overwhelmed by Mundt as anything resembling a collaborative effort. It's a one-dimentional decision that leaves everyone else having to play the reactionary. In true collaboration, a school district/debate program that felt it couldn't handle the job of upholding this long South Dakota tradition would have sent out a letter asking the community for help (there's plenty out there, it would seem from these posts) before it sent out a letter saying the tournament was ending.

  20. Phooey. I meant to say:

    "That's not collaboration. That's abdication."

    I hate when I misspell my catchphrases. ;)

  21. Is this the same Doug Knowlton who lost Prairie Rep Theater to Brandon? I hope he's sincere, but my confidence level isn't high when his wife may be pushing Mundt Tourney away from MHS.

  22. You would claim to know all of the facts on this, how, twu? I think you missed this one. Last year there WAS a call for help in the local section of the Leader. From what I was told, not a single person responded to that ad. Make sure you know your facts before you throw around the accusation that MHS did not ask for help. Funny how all the help in the world is available now.

  23. Teri~

    Sorry I missed that (as, it would seem, did many others ... perhaps a commentary on the effectiveness of reaching the masses through print journalism?), but the point still stands that abdicating responsibility for the tournament is not the collaboration of which Dr. Knowlton speaks so eloquently.

    If the help's there now, let's use it to continue the Mundt legacy (at MHS!), rather than argue grumpily over the fact that the help didn't read the locals section of the Leader last year.

  24. TWU-
    My point exactly...but if you recall, you are the one that decided to argue this point.

    "In true collaboration, a school district/debate program that felt it couldn't handle the job of upholding this long South Dakota tradition would have sent out a letter asking the community for help (there's plenty out there, it would seem from these posts) before it sent out a letter saying the tournament was ending"

    It seems to me, this is exactly what MHS did.

  25. ... except it clearly missed all of the people who are now stepping up to help.

    MHS may have reached out, but I'm not willing to give it full credit for 'collaboration' when, once the school decides to axe the tournament, we find that there were a whole bunch of people eager to lend a hand, if only given the opportunity.

    As I mentioned earlier, the response to all the people volunteering to help now ought not to be "Where the heck were you when we asked last year?" (with the implied "You're too late now, suckers."). Rather, it should be "Thanks a ton! Glad we don't have to give up on Mundt at MHS!"

  26. There have been numerous passionate posts in reply to all of the articles regarding the Mundt. That is wonderful!!

    I can't help but feel, however, that people are all worked up for nothing. (Let me explain before you start getting ticked.) Not one person has said they want the Mundt to leave Madison, not one. Post after post talks about keeping it in Madison. Guess what? It IS staying in Madison. DSU, in collaboration with MHS, has agreed to host a 2010 tournament. How great is this?? Give Madison High School a break. Let's be honest, MHS facilities are maxed out due to numerous activities(non-preventable)all happening on the same weekend,lack of classroom space, and a custodial staff that is doing double duty. (Remember that with a sporting event, a gym is the only area that needs cleaning and often the younger players are assigned clean up.) There really is no need to read between the lines and find a "beef" with anyone or any group, is there?? People are trying to do what is best. Why the need for so much criticism??

  27. Teri,

    Last years tournament ran fully staffed and any problems that happened were not a result of not having more community people.

    Not say that more people aren't welcome to help out!

  28. Hang on, Scott -- I'm getting some mixed signals here. Does the school need volunteers to help run the tournament? Does the school need more rooms? Does it need both? I'd hate to see a bunch of people show up to help maintain the Mundt Tournament at its current size, only to be told that we still have to scale the tournament back. Which is it?

    And don't forget: I'm not criticizing anyone. I'm just saying that even if every person in town wants the Mundt Tournament to stay here, we will lose it if we try to make it smaller. Unless the high school remains involved, at the very least by making rooms available for competition, we will likely have to make the contest smaller. The information I received, straight from Coach Nills, said the high school would not be involved any longer with the tournament. And at that point, we lose the tournament to another town that can find the resources to host a full Mundt.

    By the way -- can anyone remind me what other activities are taking place in the high school during the Mundt Tournament?

    And another by the way: Nothing in the press has said that DSU has agreed to host the tournament in 2010. The press last week had all parties involved, including Dr. Knowlton, saying DSU is still considering the option. Scott, are you privy to some information we are not? If so, please elaborate!

  29. Doug and Sharon

    10:00 pm

    Sharon...Doug, will you take the Karl Mundt debate tourney off my hands. It's a lot of work for Renee. Please, please, please...

    Doug...Okay Sharon, let me sleep on it, talk it over, and I'll let you know. Tomorrow night? Same place and time?

  30. Anon 10:10 AM:

    Not necessary. Not helpful.


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