A Survey of the Teaching of Debate in High Schools of Arkansas

Loyd Gerald Pearey, Ouachita Baptist University


The Purpose of this study is to provide a definitive answer to the question; "what is the status of debate programs in the high schools of Arkansas."

This question has perplexed this writer during four years of debate participation at Ouachita Baptist College. The Study revealed that this same question has been occupying the thoughts of many others concerned with debate.

The answer to this question, aside from satisfying personal curiosity, has great implications for the future of debate in Arkansas high schools and colleges. Whatever else this report accomplishes, it does reveal that there is a great deal of untapped potential for debate activity. Either for lack of interest or guidance or both Arkansas high school students are largely being deprived of the opportunities for debate competition.

The findings of this report can further debate activity in Arkansas by identifying the schools which already have debate programs and by further identifying the great number of schools which reported an interest in developing a debate program. Many schools either having debate or wishing to begin debate are prevented from competing with other nearby schools because there is inadequate communication between them regarding debate. If this report can serve as a facility for these much needed communications, its value will be obvious.

Aside from benefiting high school debate, the purpose of this report is to benefit the debate program at Ouachita College. It is important for the director to debate at any college to be aware of the constituent high schools in the area which are supplying prospective debaters. One continuing problem facing the debate director at Ouachita, and probably at all other colleges, is that of locating the potential debater who, for one reason or another, fails to take the personal initiative of locating the debate program. This report can help meet that end.

A final purpose of this report is to place on record an account of the number and location of the high schools in Arkansas which teach debate. Such an accounting is conspicuously absent at present. Thus, this report may provide the State Department of Education with the beginnings of an investigation into the debate curriculum. the National Forensic League, a high school speech fraternity, may also be interested in the results of this investigation. Since the N.F.L. is in a unique position to encourage the development of debate in the state, perhaps these pages will communicate a useful purpose to it.

In summary, the purpose of this undertaking includes personal curiosity as well as solving a multiplicity of needs in communication.

The methods employed in gathering the information contained here were diverse. Since there was no precedent for this study, the writer was forced to rely almost solely on information collected in personal research. This necessitated a "grass roots" approach; hence, the main portion of these findings came from a survey conducted by mail to every high school in the state of Arkansas. A questionnaire was sent together with a letter of explanation to 400 high schools as listed by the Arkansas Educational Directory, 1962-1963, issued by the State Department of Education.

A second source was a similar survey conducted among freshman, sophomore and junior students at Ouachita on February 27, 1964. Three hundred and seventy-four students returned questionnaires in this survey.

A third source of information consisted of replies to personal contacts and letters. Principal among these supplementary sources were the National Forensic League, the State Department of Education, and articles written for the Arkansas Gazette by Mr. Joe Stroud.

The Limitations of the study must be acknowledged. The most important limiting factor is incompleteness. Of the 400 schools contacted, 140 responded. The remaining 260 are still outside the scope of knowledge about debate. It is assumed, however, that the schools having debate programs answered the questionnaire and that most of those not answering would not have debate, Hence, this account may be more nearly accurate than statistical limitations would imply.

Finally, personal acknowledgements ate truly deserved in the case of this project. They go to the writer's wife, for her typing, writing, folding, and sealing of letters. Also to Mrs. John Austin of Pine Bluff High school for her elaborate investigation into her school's debate history; to Mrs. Marguerite Metcalf of Hall High School for her detailed information. Also to Mrs. Helena Quigley of Little Rock Central High. The writer is indebted especially to Bruno E. Jacob, founder and executive secretary of the National Forensic League; J.H. Wasson, Assistant Commissioner for Instructional Services for the Department of Education; and to Mr. Jerry Reynolds, assistant professor of speech at Ouachita and supervisor of this project for his advice, encouragement and patience. Finally, the writer is very much grateful to all the teachers who returned the questionnaire. Their attitude was typified by Sister Lois Marie of Sacred Heart High School in Morrilton who was kind enough not only to return the questionnaire, but also to go beyond the call of duty to wish good luck, express hope that every questionnaire would be returned, and close with a "God bless you!