The Stoa 2013 Vote Results

Today’s a big day in my life. Stoa members have voted, and the results for new resolutions and speech rules released last night. Here is a rundown of the upcoming year of speech and debate.


Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Debaters will be arguing international conflicts. The winning resolution stands:

Resolved: The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts.

This may be a temptation for this year’s team-policy debaters. They’re finishing up a year of arguing international military conflicts, so this may be a tempting transition. Value debate would include applications that are much broader—historical examples as well as non-military conflicts.

I’ve got a lot going with LD debate. First, our Red Book will release this summer, edited by 2012 champion LD debater Jon Bateman and his crew of champion writers. Second, I have two training minds camps set to launch. And third, for the first time for Training Minds, we’re launching an advanced LD camp. See Training Minds Events for more info.

Team-Policy Debate

Debaters will be arguing international conflicts. The winning resolution stands:

 Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its marine natural resource policies.

My friend and business partner Vance Trefethen—one of the best coaches in the world, in my opinion—wants to bring back a case he ran in high school with his old debate partner Rob Parks. “Rob and I are going to try to bring back our old 1980 debate case for Unilateral US Deep Seabed Mining,” he told me when the voting started. “Maybe we can even re-use that old card that says we’re going to completely run out of copper by the year 2000.”

Vance lives in France, but he will be flying to the states to run both our Training Minds Camps in San Diego and Virginia Beach in July/August. He writes the briefs in Blue Book (the sourcebook for team-policy debaters) and I write the educational material that introduces new debaters to the topic. Likewise, see Training Minds Events for more information.


I personally went back and forth on this issue, and the voting went largely even-steven. The proposed change for impromptu (that it would become a “break out” event at NITOC and that Mars Hill would become the quasi-impromptu regular event) was voted into next year’s rules.

At first I was hesitant. Impromptu is currently by far the most participated event. There are always 3-4 times the number of competitors in impromptu than the next-most-attended event at any tournament. This created many problems, two of which were a concern to me. First, it watered down the event. Second, it made it very difficult for tournaments to find facilities to accommodate.

The idea of “break out” events at NITOC is new to the homeschool community, but the National Forensic League (the public school league) has been doing this for years. They call it “consolation” events at the week-long national tournament. Rather than twiddling thumbs when competitors get knocked out of competition, these speakers and debaters can enter the “consolation” or “break out” event and hopefully bring home an award.

Wild Card: Broadcasting

Wild card events—the special events intended to run for only a year—changed up a bit. Members voted to keep a wild card for two years, then switch out a second wild card every year. So, there will always be two wild cards, but each wild card will last two years instead of one. I think this will work well. Storytelling is last year’s wild card that will stick around for another year.

The new one: Broadcasting. Students get to “play radio.” What kid didn’t do this at a young age? Competitors will be given a selection of news articles or product information (this is a limited-preparation event) and deliver a speech.

The NFL has a similar event, and tournaments are sometimes set up to have judges not see the competitors. A curtain is set up so that competitors are totally vocal. It isn’t clear in the Stoa announcement if this will be the case, but it sure would make it a unique wild card if it was set up this way. We’ll see. This would be the only event totally centered on voice rather than voice + visual appearance.

About half of my votes agreed with everyone else, the other half went to the wayside. Oh well, that’s how democracy works. But all in all, these changes are exciting. I’m looking forward to a great year of speaking and debating.

Stoa speakers, debaters and coaches…what do you think?

Here are some handy links for more info:


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • It’s great that LDers have an opportunity to argue international law and foreign policy again from a values perspective. The ambiguity of “United States” and “mitigate” will allow debaters to argue everything from NGOs to maintaining a peace-time military presence.

    TPers can look forward to an educational year. Few homeschoolers know about marine natural resources, and the political implications are numerous. Throw the debate into international waters and anything’s possible.

    Impromptu has been watered down over the years, but it will be interesting to see if that changes given the pool of competitors adding it in a break-out round.

    Broadcasting is a wonderful wild-card event. What young speaker doesn’t want to be the voice of America?

    • My sentiments, too. I laughed at your comment on Broadcasting. I recall spending hours over a tape recorder and microphone recording my imaginary DJ career. This goes way back.

  • I’m happy with all of the results except Impromptu. Although I understand that it was difficult to make room for it, I feel it is such an important skill to learn. I thought that maybe it should just be more difficult to qualify for NITOC in Impromptu than other events. Plus, it was relatively easy to judge – usually. 🙂

    • This was my first thought, too. I think the hope is to make up for it in Mars Hill, and now with Broadcasting. We’ll see how it goes.

  • I am happy with all the results as well, yes, even including Impromptu. Although I was disappointed to hear that the only choice we could make was Impromptu or Mars Hill, when forced to choose I am still convinced that the skills we learn in Mars Hill not only include those in Impromptu, but far surpass it as well. Being able to to take a popular song or movie topic and direct the conversation towards Christ is far more important then coming up with a message on some of the Impromptu topics I’ve been given. Like road signs…..or music notes 😛

    • I agree. We’ll probably look back at the “old” impromptu and think this was a good move for the league.

  • I am surprised that you are not disappointed at losing impromptu, the only true limited prep- no boxes, no binder and no 3×5 card; a true test of what are kids can do in a real life situation. Perhaps the bigger disappointment is relegating this event to a consolation round for students who don’t break. My kids spent years of never breaking. Do you know what they did during out rounds? They timed and watched.. And learned.

    • Right…it’s not as if people were twiddling their thumbs (my bad analogy).

  • travisherche

    The value resolution has a great topic area, but the wording is so weak that just making it work for the first round of summer cases will be difficult. The most reasonable interpretations of words like “mitigate” and “conflict” mean the affirmative burden is incredibly lightweight. In other words, this will be a rough year for Stoa LDers – but they got through “Privacy is undervalued,” so they can handle this. Homeschool LD had 4-5 years of great resolutions in a row; it’s frustrating to see stuff like this.

    The policy topic is fine. I think the topic area is a little narrow, but I’m excited to see what cases people come up with. It’s well balanced and very competitive. 2014 NITOC final round should be really fun.

    I’m sympathetic to the problems associated with the sheer number of people doing impromptu, but making it a break-out event was a mistake. It means high-level kids (who break) won’t get the experience, while low-level kids (who should be watching outrounds) will. Impromptu is an essential event, alongside extemp, persuasive, and dramatic interp. I’d rather see any of the other ones made a break-out event, or better yet, see no break-outs at all. I think this decision will hurt the quality of tournaments and slow skill development for kids who want to do it. Really hoping this gets changed back next year and other solutions are explored.

    Broadcasting is the good news! This is a great speech event. I’ve been excited about it for years. As long as it’s executed well, it should be a top-level limited prep. My favorite way to do it is to have judges in one room listening to a student in another room speaking into a mic. That gives the most accurate broadcasting experience, at the cost of some potential logistical and technical hiccups. Can’t wait to see (or hear) this event go live.

    • You’re really that grim about the LD res? I guess I understand. But, like last year, I think the fine, fine coaching from Training Minds will set competitions straight.

      • travisherche

        Absolutely. I’m still figuring out how to make this resolution work, but I’m sure we can find something. : )