The Garden City Telegram
3/18/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Speech points

Forensics study, competition benefit students in many ways.

When it comes to competition among high schools, much attention is focused on sports.

At Garden City High School and elsewhere in Kansas, students also score valuable experience in areas of competition based not in athletics, but in academics.

Count forensics as one such educational competition where GCHS students continue to excel.

GCHS has been a power in state forensics competition, and this year should be no exception.

With 40 students participating, the current team already has qualified 36 entries for state. It's such a sizable number that GCHS must whittle the list to 16, the maximum number allowed at state — and the Buffaloes have more opportunities to qualify entries.

Russ Tidwell, GCHS forensics and debate coach, called this year's team one of the best ever at the school.

And he should know: Along with being mentor to numerous award-winning forensics students over the years, the veteran teacher recently received a 2012-13 National Federation of State High School Associations Outstanding Speech/Debate/Theater Educator Award.

Tidwell and others know the value of the experience for students, and how the classroom study and competition in forensics challenge participants in many ways.

Consider extemporaneous speaking that has students drawing topics, and spending a short amount of time writing speeches before presenting them to judges. Examples of other spirited areas of competition would be dramatic and humorous interpretation, impromptu speaking, original oratory, poetry and prose reading, and one- and two-person acting events.

Skills acquired from forensics — the ability to speak confidently in front of people, act professionally and compete — promise to pay dividends in any future pursuit.

With that in mind, it's easy to see how the subject of forensics belongs on a diverse menu of educational offerings.

A complete education must extend beyond reading, writing, arithmetic and other basics. The value of all options must be weighed at a time school funding cuts stand to jeopardize so many good programs in schools.

In some states, unfortunately, speech and debate have been targeted.

Credit Kansas schools — and GCHS in particular — for maintaining a forensics tradition that continues to pay off for students involved in the worthwhile endeavor.