Several people in the last month or so have asked about the reasoning behind the introduction of a two-year cycle that will separate domestic and international topics for Extemp beginning this season. In the following article, you’ll find the answer to that specific question as well as line-of-sight into the broader intentionality that underpins our Speech program.
All NCFCA speech events have both competitive and educational goals that our Speech Committee and our broader leadership team evaluate each season. Our goal for Extemporaneous is that our students will be able to examine the world around them through the lens of a biblical worldview and then be able to speak about them in a way that is accurate, substantive, persuasive, and grounded in truth.
Since Extemporaneous moved to electronic research and repository use for tournaments a number of years ago, our leadership has continued to monitor and evaluate the quality of speeches delivered in competition. Sadly, our observation is that the substantive quality has decreased compared to the time when students had to create and manage a physical box containing printed resources. Those resources were the product of a student or a club’s research of specific topics and represented hours of reading, printing, and indexing articles on topics from around the world.
The advent of electronic Extemp increased participation in the event and saved paper, ink, and space, but it reduced the incentive to read and evaluate the worthiness of sources prior to a student’s preparation time within a round. To mitigate the deficiency, we have made a few intermediate adjustments over the years (cross-examination, question style adjustment, ballot criteria improvement, notecard requirement, etc.). While these updates have helped, they have not produced the return to previous quality that we desire.
Because we want to encourage the acquisition of knowledge so that students have a better understanding of the world around them, we felt a more substantial change would be beneficial. While we recognize there is likely not a “silver bullet, one-size-fits-all” answer, we believe that the introduction of a two-year cycle of domestic and international topics will make deeper preparation for Extemporaneous more manageable. A two-year cycle that aligns with the domestic/international cycle of Policy Debate will allow students to be more intentional in their study and encourage less of the “download and speak” mentality.
We recognize that students who have participated in Extemp in the past or were planning to begin competition this season may view this change as limiting. The psychology of “taking something away” is always a challenge. Rest assured though; there will be plenty of room for research, and our team is going to work hard to give students the best mix of topics available. The topics presented during the domestic cycle will cover purely domestic topics as well as US foreign policy topics. Conversely, during the international cycle, topics will include issues specific to other countries, as well as issues that intersect with the US.
We hope competitors, coaches, and parents will view the change to a two-year cycle as an opportunity to improve the quality, depth, and integrity of Extemp preparation and competition in our league.