I was part of the development of a very helpful online tool for speakers and debaters: Speechranks.com. It’s cool, but there was a fair amount of criticism when it was released. Let me explain what the tool was created to be, what the initial criticism was, and whether or not it ever played out.
Speechranks is a place for students across the country to go to find out where they stand competitively. It was developed by Connor McKay, a former employee of mine, and directed by a forensics league, Stoa. Tournament directors across the country can work with Stoa to enter tournament results into the system. If students go to a tournament where the TD doesn’t enter data into Speechranks, no worries. Students can enter their own data into the system if they wish.
That’s where the fear lied. Students, for the most part, could enter falsified data. They could make some things up, put themselves in 1st place at some made up tournament somewhere, get ahead falsely. Parents and coaches said things like,
- “Students will lie to get ahead.”
- “Students will fight to be the better liar.”
- “Students are sinners, and sinners will cheat.”
- “Speechranks will encourage lying.”
- “We (the adults) need to control the information to make sure it is accurate.”
Those of us involved in the development of the idea had a solution: a flagging system. It still exists. If someone tried to cheat, another user could flag the data. A handful of monitors investigate and boot the people off. I was a monitor for its first year. Aside from a few goofballs that got weeded out quickly, most of the corrections were simple mistakes. No big deal, and the data was spot-on accurate at the year’s end.
The results were very encouraging. Students began scrolling through the data like kids trading baseball cards. The community became tighter, students began recognizing names from other students from across the country, and the momentum for the entire speech and debate movement got stronger. It was awesome, and it still is today.
The lesson in this is so encouraging. Expect integrity, and integrity will surface. Even among the youth.
Side note: The screenshot above is the top 10 Lincoln-Douglas debaters of 2012. Just so happens that 8 out of 10 are alumni of my Training Minds Camps. Just thought you’d like to know!