DHS Counseling Department
The mission of the Dexter High School counseling department is to provide high quality, comprehensive school counseling services to all students. Our program, as guided by the ASCA National Model, is designed to help all students develop and enhance their academic, career, and personal/social strengths in order to become responsible and productive citizens. There is a commitment to individual uniqueness and the maximum development of human potential. Through the skillful use of strategic, timely, and personal interventions, counselors customize educational experiences in order to enhance capabilities, close achievement gaps among high and low performing groups and support positive choices.
Read more about our guiding principles, services, standards, and focus areas in our School Counseling Mission Statement.
Debate + Forensics = Dexter’s Speech Activities Team
Resolved: Debate and Forensics are NOT the same thing.
by Melanie McIntyre
Upon entering the Speech Activities Team classroom, one might first notice the high ceilings and large dimensions of the space, giving the room an open, welcoming atmosphere. It’s not long before the eye is drawn to the wide windows, where abundant light streams in even on the grayest days. Part of that light, however, is due to the glimmer of row after row of Debate and Forensics trophies lining the sills.
Wow, you might think, this team must have a long and impressive history to have so many years’ worth of trophies on display. And so they have. But, the dozens of trophies so proudly displayed in the window are only those won in the 2019-2020 season. Which is not yet over. Which started only five months ago. Impressive, indeed!
For those not familiar with Debate and Forensics, it may seem these two activities are one and the same. Both involve research, interpretation, public speaking and adjudicated competition. In many schools across the country, they are combined together for events and competition. However, in Michigan, Debate and Forensics are two separate entities with very different outcomes required from each team.
Debate Vs. Forensics – What Is the Difference?
Dexter’s Debate Team competes in Public Forum Debate, which pits a two-student team from one school against a two-student team from another school, debating a current event in a public forum style. Each month, the National Speech and Debate Association sets a topic for all teams across the country to debate. February 2020’s Public Forum Debate topic is: “Resolved: The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.”
Once the topic is released, teams begin their research. Using a shared Google drive to pool their findings teams must prepare both the pros and cons of the selected topic, as a coin-toss at competition decides the position the team argues. Each student on the team gives two speeches during the event, one constructive speech to build their argument and one refutation speech in response to the other team’s argument. The format goes back and forth between teams in four segments, interspersed with three opportunities for crossfire. Teams are judged on the strength of their arguments and their ability to persuade the judges to their point of view.
Forensics, or Speech, as it is sometimes called, derives its name from Latin word “forensis” meaning “in open court” or “public.” This is the format practiced by great orators in ancient Rome and Greece, using persuasion and eloquence to prove a point. Speech Activities Team Director, Deb Marsh, compares a Forensics competition to a swim meet. “Just as there are individual events at a swim meet, there are individual events at a Forensics competition,” she explains.
Forensics events fall into two categories: Speeches and Interpretations. Some speech events, such as informative, persuasive and sales, involve preparation prior to competition and require visual aids during presentation. Other speech events include a short time to prepare during competition; students participating in broadcasting and extemporaneous speeches may have 30 minutes after being given a topic to prepare their speech. Lastly, the Impromptu speech event gives students a topic prompt upon entering the competition room about which they must quickly prepare and speak, unrehearsed.
Interpretive presentations are prepared in advance by one, two or multiple students depending on the event. In Duo Interpretation, two students prepare a 10-minute performance based on a play or story. Using no props or costumes, and without looking or touching one another, the students must recreate the scenes playing all the characters, using a different voice for each.
Another event, called Multiple Interpretation, involves three to eight students performing a 15-minute scene from a play or movie with the same applied rules as Duo (no props, costumes, etc.). The most recent Multiple Interpretation performed by the Dexter Forensics team was from the movie, “Dead Poet’s Society.”
Other Interpretation formats include Dramatic (based on play/stage performance), Prose (based on book/essay), Poetry (multiple poems around a single theme) and Children’s Story (based on a picture book).
Dexter Speech Activities Team 2019-2020
At Dexter Schools, members of both the Debate and Forensics teams are brought together under the umbrella title, Speech Activities Team. The 2019-2020 Debate team has 30 members, and the Forensics team has 15 members, with many students participating simultaneously on both. Each team includes both high school and middle school students participating on three levels, Varsity, Novice and Middle. Varsity is mostly upper-class students, Novice is first year team members and Middle is for middle school students. Dexter hosts at least one tournament each year, and sometimes more due to its central location in the region.
At the Michigan Forensics Association (MIFA) Debate State Tournament held at Wayne State University in December 2019, Dexter’s Debate team came in 1st in Varsity, 3rd in Novice and 1st in Middle Level out of the 54 schools in attendance. In addition, 14 Dexter students received individual speaker awards.
Most recently, the Varsity Debate team won a Gold Bid for the 2020 Tournament of Champions to be held at the University of Kentucky in the spring, which includes teams from all across the United States.
The Forensics Team begins their season on February 29th with a Forensics Invitational to be held at Dexter High School.
Senior Rose Reilly has had an impressive career with the Debate team, competing at both the Novice and Varsity levels since 9th grade. Reilly and her partner, Bobby Lynch, were instrumental in winning the Varsity State Debate Tournament and receiving the Gold Bid to the Tournament of Champions. Reilly’s experiences with Debate have directed her post-graduate plans; she is planning to study pre-law at a college yet to be determined.
“Mrs. Marsh is like our team mom,” Reilly shares, smiling. “She takes care of us, and puts in far more than is expected of any teacher.”
“She has a selfless heart, “Reilly continues, “shown by her level of dedication, going to tournaments with us every weekend.”
Teammate MacKenzie Gabriel-Lazette agrees that Marsh is, “compassionate, yet pushes us to be better citizens and better human beings.”
Gabriel-Lazette, who has also participated in Debate for her entire high school career, stated that, “the skills I’ve learned in Debate have made me who I am.” She intends to attend George Washington University after graduation to pursue either law or international relations.
Marsh, who is also the Debate Committee Chair of the Michigan Forensics Association, affirms that the benefits of participating in Debate and Forensics are many, including an interest in serving the community after high school.
“Students who participate in Debate and Forensics feel an obligation to give back to the community, even outside of Dexter,” Marsh shares. Many 1st year college students come back to judge high school tournaments in their area, while others begin coaching high school teams after college.
Interested in Learning More?
The Speech Activities Team meets after school at the high school from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week, beginning two weeks before school starts in September. Debate and Forensics are open to all students in 7-12th grades.