Jana Riggins, Speech and Debate Director
Jana Riggins, Speech and Debate Director

New School Year Starts with Changes in Speech and Debate

By Jana Riggins, Speech and Debate Director | Tuesday, August 23, 2016 10:57 AM

Change. That’s often an overwhelming word teachers hear repeatedly when they reenter the school building after being gone for the summer months. Students show up for the first day of class and they feel the changes too. It’s not just the new clothes and supplies they may have purchased for school; there are new buildings, new teachers, new courses and bell schedules and always, new classroom procedures.

At UIL, you will find changes too. But rest assured, some things haven’t changed. The calendar for UIL speech competitions has not altered. Congress regional competitions are still Nov. 1-15, and the State Meet is Jan. 9-11. CX Districts still begin the first school day in January and end mid-February. CX State Meet is March 13-14, 2017 for Conference 1A-3A and March 17-18, 2017 for Conference 4A-6A at the University of Texas at Austin. Ignore superstition and book your hotel rooms now because the Capitol City is popular during spring break.

Individual speaking events (prose, poetry, informative speaking, persuasive speaking and LD debate) have two sanctioned weeks for district. District I runs from March 20-25. District II is March 31-April 1, abbreviated due to state testing days earlier in that week. Speech State remains in the month of May, as it has since 1910 when the very first debate state championship was held. Maintaining our May date allows us to secure the necessary facilities required for preliminary and final rounds and avoids conflict with other forensic organization competitions. Mark your calendars for May 22-23, and be sure to have Speech State included on your official school district calendar so it will be noticed when planning local awards assemblies and graduation activities.

So what has changed?

For one, the regional meet date. Region is moving up two weeks in April. Speech, One-Act Play and academic regional competition will be held April 6-8, 2017. Secondly, Congress is now a sanctioned event. Although we have been crowning state champions the past three years as a pilot event, sanction status means that Congress receives points at the state level and state meet participants qualify for TILF scholarship consideration.

A rule change is that Congress legislation submission is not mandatory in order to participate. But, of course, authoring legislation is certainly to your school’s advantage in order to obtain the authorship speech in the chamber. Be prepared to meet the Sept. 10 deadline if your school plans on submitting legislation to be considered for the region meet. Several of the ESC regions have new region clerks. All ESC clerks will be posted on the Congress page and you will receive an email from your clerk in the very near future with details about your specific congressional region meet.

Prose and Poetry literary categories have changed. New categories for 2016-17 were released in May and can be found on the website. A detailed explanation of each category, including documentation requirements, is discussed extensively in this year’s edition of the Prose and Poetry Handbook. This season, there is an interactive documentation form required for each of the four categories, making documentation check at tournaments much easier and quicker for contestants and Contest Directors.

The Lincoln Douglas Debate fall semester resolution has been posted as of Aug. 15: RESOLVED: The dominance of two major political parties in the U.S. presidential elections undermines democracy. This topic will be debated September through December 2016. Although the CX Debate policy topic area of China was revealed previously in January of 2016, the National Debate Topic Selection Committee recently announced the five topics that will be considered for 2017. They include: domestic agriculture, income inequality, energy policy, Russia, and education reform. Coaches will find a link to the study reports presented to the selection committee and Topic Ballot #1 already online and ready for you to vote.

There is certainly change on the political campaign trail every single day. Extemporaneous Speaking practice topics will start appearing on the website in September.

Another significant change is the Constitution & Contest Rules book has become much thinner. Why? Because academic and speech contest procedures and the complete rules for events have been moved from the Constitution into contest handbooks. Every coach will need to obtain a copy of the handbook for the event they coach to ensure they are coaching the most current rules. UIL has made securing a copy extremely easy and cost-efficient. Simply go to the UIL website, click on the Online Store and download your complimentary digital copy of the CX Debate Guide, the LD Debate Guide, Prose and Poetry Handbook, Congress Guide, as well as the Informative and Persuasive Handbook. The New Speech Coach Manual can be found online on the New Coach webpage of UIL Speech. This positive move gives all coaches and contestants access to the instructional manuals designed to enhance success in UIL.

We will do our best at the State Office to keep you apprised and reminded of all the changes that have taken place in the UIL world for this season. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the changes swirling around you from every corner of your world, just remember: “Change is not always growth, but Growth is ALWAYS change!” Have a great beginning of the school year! Contact my office if you need assistance or information.

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