Thoughts on Stoa’s 2015 Speech Options

Stoa is asking its membership to vote on two options for speech competitors for the 2015-2016 season. I have thoughts to share about the speech choices, and I encourage you to share your opinion, too.

Picture taken at 2012 NITOC by Heidi Mittelberg.

Picture taken at 2012 NITOC.

The two options are (1) a change to one of Stoa’s main speech events, and (2) the expected yearly vote on the wildcard event. In summary with links to Stoa’s explanatory page:

  1. Change a speech event. The decision given to voters is to remove Open Interp and replace it with Storytelling, which was run as a wildcard a couple years ago.
  2. Choose a wildcard event. The choices given to voters are monologue and poetry. Whatever voters choose will run for the next two years at Stoa tournaments.

Now let me weigh in.

1. Should we replace Open Interp with Storytelling?

Stoa gave their reasoning for the change (read it here), but I don’t like their reasoning. They appeal to popularity: “Only one of the other five Christian homeschool forensics organizations continues to offer Open Interpretation.” The “only one” is the largest and most significant, the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA). The other three aren’t even bleeps on the radar.

I believe I have a better reason to adopt Storytelling: Open Interp’s purpose is outdated.

When there are only three interpretive events, OI makes sense. Interp choices become Humorous, Dramatic, and “everything else” — aka, Open Interp. But wildcards are getting in the way of that, just as it became evident the year Storytelling was offered as an wildcard interpretive event. In other words, OI had its day, but it is now gone.

OI becomes a dumping ground event, which can be unfortunate when put into practice. Judges are not given clear objectives to judge a room of eight speakers, or at least not as clear as other interp events. They are forced to choose between thematic, original, poetry, prose, and speeches that should be in humorous or dramatic but students feel they have a better shot in OI. Everyone finds it a bit cumbersome: coaches coaching to the event, students selecting pieces for the event, and publishers (like me!) writing material for the event. It is too much of a free-for-all for my liking.

I have three reservations worth noting:

  1. There will no longer be a dumping ground for interp. I gave this as a reason for the change, but it is limiting options for competitors. No more student-written pieces, no more thematic, no more of any of that. My answer to that is okay. We have wildcards to stir things up, but Storytelling as a permanent event is a great alternative.
  2. This is yet another step away from NCFCA and standard commonality between the homeschool leagues. I am one of the few who brings his family to both worlds (it’s quite a rush…you should try it). Not all speeches in NCFCA’s OI will adapt to Stoa’s new limitation.
  3. There is a pattern forming in Stoa’s short history: everyone wants to go back to the expired wildcard events. This is perhaps why other leagues don’t adopt wildcards (and two wildcards, in my opinion, is a bit “wild”). I guess this is my little appeal to popularity to drop the wildcard altogether, but that’s not being offered as the option here.

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages, I’m fine Storytelling replacing Open Interp.

2. Wildcard: Monologue or Poetry?

Both of these sound interesting, but I’m afraid for the result of this vote more than the one above. I’m voting for Poetry. Here’s why: history.

Poetry has been an event in the public school league for as long as I can remember, and it is run in college leagues, too. Where is “monologue” run as a competitive event? I never heard of it (have you?). It is out-of-the-blue, not yet tested, and when given a little bit of thought, I don’t believe it would go down very well.

Here’s one way it wouldn’t: understandability. You are going to spend a lot of the year trying to understand what a “monologue” is. It could be either a platform or an interp. Who is to stop someone from taking a famous platform and calling it a monologue? Or a humorous interp (maybe run last year or really funny and gets cheap ballots) and calling it a monologue? What is the difference between a monologue and a soliloquy? Now we’re running poetry, aren’t we?

New ideas like this shouldn’t be on the ballot, in my opinion. Only events that have been run elsewhere are worth consideration. If monologue is chosen as an event, the competitive year will become an experimental laboratory rather than a serious competition. Interpretation of the rules will vary greatly, will likely be re-written for the second year, and will affect coaches, students, tournament directors and adjudications. I don’t think it will be much fun.

Come to think of it, this is how Open Interp came about. Things like this come full circle.

I suppose this is not so much a complaint about “monologue” as it is a complaint about choosing wildcard events. Poetry has a long history of competitive practice. Students and coaches will have plenty of resources to reference and the year would be extremely competitive. The idea of “monologue” is too squiggly for my liking.

So there you have it, folks: Chris Jeub’s opinion on the Stoa voting options in speech. Whether you agree or disagree, MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN. That’s the purpose of the discussion from now till voting May 1-15. An informed membership makes informed decisions, and I can always live with that.

Leave comments below. I will approve hyperlinks, too, if you want to link to your own blog or resources that will help.

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

  • Ian Caffarel

    I’d sorta like to throw this out there, especially in light of the last two voting rounds: Just because someone else’s doing something doesn’t mean you yourself should do it. In fact, what they’re doing may not be good for you. Keep that in mind when making your decision. Just sayin’.

  • Sarah F.

    Instead of replacing OI with Storytelling, why don’t they replace DI? It is far less popular. Also, I thought Stoa was going to always have a limited prep and platform. Where is the limited prep? Broadcasting is very popular. While we are talking of getting rid of events because they are too similar, why don’t we get rid of Mars Hill. It has gotten to be very similar to Apol. We can replace it with Broadcasting, or, better yet, restore Impromptu — everyone else has it.

    • I sympathize with your list, but these issues aren’t on the ballot. You will need to send these issues to Stoa.

      For now, the issues to decide concern OI/Storytelling and the wildcards.

      • Sarah F.

        Will do. I was simply throwing ideas out there, not intending to counter your post.