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Friday, January 16, 2009

RC Stevens Debate Program Threatened by Budget Cuts

As Madison High School continues to scale back its support for speech activities by ending its 40+ years of hosting the Karl E. Mundt Debate Tournament, our neighbors in Rapid City are preparing to scuttle the Stevens High School debate program. To eke out a 5% in the district budget, Rapid City administrators are considering a 50% cut in the Stevens debate budget. The cut would eliminate a teaching position and the beginning and advanced debate classes from the curriculum.

I highly recommend reading the comments section to the RC Journal story. A number of Stevens debate alums have joined parents and other interested parties to state their support for a strong, vigorous debate program. There appears to be a general recognition that debate provides one of the most challenging and profitable educational experiences that our kids can get in high school. When effective communication skills are critical to almost every good job in every field, it defies explanation that school administrators continue to treat debate as an expendable frill (and debate tournaments as an "overwhelming" bother).

For years Stevens debate was a powerhouse. in the late 1980s and 1990s, coaches like Kim Maass, Ron Grimsley, and Steve Bartholomew led Stevens debaters on grand marches across the state to come beat up on us East River debaters. But in the past few years, rapid coaching turnover (three coaches in three years, and one this year who resigned two months in) has left the team in decline.

A strong debate team requires a strong coach. Without lots of home games and arena spectacles to give the activity prominence, debate teams require a vocal, dedicated coach to be their advocate before the administration and school board. Without such a voice, the debate program becomes an easy target for budget cuts by administrators who fail to grasp how vital debate and debate tournaments are to the best education possible.

The Stevens debate program has already done its part to save money, making significant cuts in travel to East River tournaments (thus reducing its competitive advantage at big tournaments against its rivals from Sioux Falls et al.). Asking Stevens debate to shoulder another 50% cut and eliminating the curricular component of the program is unfair and unwise.


  1. It sounds like people are more important than money to make a program successful. Without a great coach, the debate program faltered.

    I suspect that many cuts are coming very soon to a school near you.

  2. As much as I like debate; its academic nature, nevertheless I'll be true to my dogma -- all extracirricular activities should be done in clubs and removed from school. School is for scholars and scholarship. All extracirricular stuff must be similarly treated and removed from school. It's done in world class secondary schools - we need to catch up. Then we'll have funds for education.

  3. Someboday call Stan Adelstein. He'll write a check for anything for the publicity.

  4. Anon 5:20: There is a reasonable argument to be made for placing all extracurriculars on club status, as is common in Europe. That's how soccer and hockey developed here in South Dakota, and those activities have flourished.

    However, debate so strognly supports the academic mission of the school, there is a very strong case to make that more schools should sponsor the activity, include it in the curriculum, and give students academic credit for it. When a student can gain more speech experience in one weekend tournament than in an entire semester in the classroom, why not make it a class (if not a general requirement)?

    mbk, Stan is doing a valuable public service by supporting music in Rapid City (unlike you, whose snide comments offer little value to the conversation or the community). Similar support from donors for debate would be welcome and praiseworthy.

  5. Fair enough. The problem is that Adelstein makes sure everybody knows about it. He could have bailed out the music program without broadcasting it at public meeting to get votes. That's all I'm saying.

  6. I, like Cory, was a LD debater in high school, two years of it the same time he was and have judged alongside of him and coordinated the Karl Mundt for years with him. I have used EVERY skill learned in debate - nearly every day. My thinking, writing, speaking and negotiation skills are bolstered by a keen confidence that make me stand out in the crowd. If there is another activity at school that is deemed better, I'd like to have a non-debater in the school fight for it with the school's top LD or Trad team. Maybe next year's LD topic should be "It is morally wrong to cut the debate team from a school." Neg would have a tough time, though, I guess....
    Rebecca (Glynn) Adams, proud MHS Debater, 1988 - 1991

  7. Blame School for giving little weight to this. The debate brings prestige to the school and its students. The quality of education should be accompanied by the shape of their pupils engage with reality. I see also as budget cuts benefit a escuela.Ineficacia, irresponsibility or neglect ...? I'll take them all.


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