As discussion continues over the fate of the Karl E. Mundt Debate Tournament, let's take a moment to address some errors contained in Friday's front-page Madison Daily Leader article on Madison High School's desire to end its support of the contest:
1. [reporter Elisa Sand] "But since its inception, the tournament has continued to grow...."
I have competed at, judged at, or helped direct Mundt for 15 of the last 20 years. I have not seen any constant upward trend in entry numbers. Entry numbers have ranged between 400 to 450 over the past five years.
2. [MHS principal Sharon Knowlton]: "...there are very few places that can handle it at the size it presently is. It's too big."
It hasn't been too big for the last 41 years. One town smaller than Madison thinks it can host. Harrisburg looks at hosting not as a strain, but an "excellent opportunity."
3. [Sand citing Knowlton]: "...the district makes a point not to schedule classes that particular day."
On the Friday of the tournament, the district has usually scheduled an early release so that classrooms will be available for competition by 2 p.m. Classes are scheduled, just shorter. The day still counts as a full school day.
4. [Sand]: "While the elementary school facility technically is available, Knowlton said that using the facility would put more of a strain on the maintenance staff that is already tapped out with cleaning and locking up the high school and middle school Friday night."
Doesn't the elementary have its own custodial staff? And how tapped out are they from cleaning up after hosting eight home basketball games?
5. [Sand]: "While talk is beginning to circulate that Madison wasn't planning to host the tournament after the 2009 event, and there's speculation that support is no longer there for the tournament, Knowlton said that couldn't be furthest from the truth."
If "that" refers to both preceding dependent clauses, the statement is incorrect. That "talk" beginning to circulate has come from Coach Renee Nills herself, who notified South Dakota debate coaches that 2009 is the last year MHS is hosting Mundt. Coach Renee Nills has said in e-mails to me that "Yes, the Mundt will no longer be hosted by MHS," and "Our building (MHS) would not continue to be used as a site for the Mundt." Note that three paragraphs later in the Friday MDL article, DSU President Doug Knowlton says [Sand's words] "representatives from MHS have approached the Mundt Foundation about discontinuing their support."
6. [Sand]: "Before securing a seat as U.S. Representative for South Dakota in 1938, Mundt was already president of the National Forensics League, a position he held for 25 years."
Mundt was elected the second President of the National Forensic League during the 1932–33 school year. He served in that position for 40 years, right through his entire career in Washington, until his resignation during the 1971–72 school year.
Now those are just the factual errors. Note also that Principal Knowlton appears to have missed a main argument from the original blog post on Mundt: If we want to keep Mundt in Madison, we can't downsize it. Coaches want their kids to have as many chances to compete as possible. Scaling down Mundt is like telling basketball teams that they can only bring their starters, no bench or JV. Teams won't come to Madison for a smaller Mundt. They'll go to a tournament and a town that can find the resources to host a full tournament.
If I missed any errors (or made any of my own), the comment line is open! Fire away... and let's keep Mundt in Madison!
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