Its debatable…Speak Up!

June 26, 2007

Coaching intercollegiate debate and raising a family… 13 years later

Filed under: Uncategorized — bk2nocal @ 12:00 am

This article is from the Winter, 1994 National Forensic Journal.  It was written by Ann Burnett Pettus, then Assistant Professor and Director of Forensics at U. of Nebraska, Lincoln and Mary Ann Danielson, then Instructor and Director of Forensics at Creighton University. 

The study only included five narratives, which represented a 60% return rate.  The authors note that there were not that many women that fell into the category of mother and debate coach in 1994.  That number should be a little higher today. I think this would be a great piece of research to do an update of and see where we are in 2007 with these particular issues. 

Some highlights from the article I found particularly interesting:

Stewart (1989) discovered that women who were satisfied with their decision to have a career and family had “flexible or adjustable work hours, supervisors’ understanding and cooperation when emergencies arise or children are ill, job hours compatible with school and day care hours, adequate pay to obtain domestic help, and willingness of co-workers to help meet deadlines when emergencies arise” (p. 30).

A career in academics does tend to provide you with a more flexible work schedule, but involvement in forensics tends to skew that flexibility.  Depending on whether you are in a program with assistants or not, you may have a lot of flexibility or no flexibility at all in attending tournaments, running practice rounds, meeting with students, etc.  So, being at a program that provides assistantships is a key factor in being able to balance forensics and children effectively.  The hours of day care are also not forensics friendly.  Most day cares do not offer weekend services and those that do are often very expensive.  In addition, overnight stays are virtually unavoidable in forensics, so having someone to care day and night for your children is necessary. 

Or, you can take them with you.  But, this effects one’s ability to judge, sometimes can effect one’s ability to coach teams, and certainly can be an additional stressor in an already incredibly stressful and exhausting situation.  I definitely have seen some coaches do this successfully, but it required either having assistants to cover the judging, buying out of that judging, or working in the tab room in order to have more flexibility to deal with issues that might arise with their children.  With the time commitment required of forensics, it seems necessary to start a discussion of how people deal with this successfully without feeling like they are neglecting their families.

As some women in this study point out, the already-tough expectations of debate coaching may be more demanding for a woman than a man, and, at the same time, the woman still has the burden of caring for her family. More importantly, the small number of women debate coaches should be of concern to the community, and this essay provides some initial insight into why more women may not be involved.

This is an interesting commentary.  Is coaching debate more demanding for a woman than a man?  If so, why?  What are the things that are required of women, or what is the additional burdens placed on women that are not required of or placed on men?  Perhaps this has changed since 1994.  What about equity in responsibilities at home?  It would be interesting to see if there is more of that among women coaching debate than there is among the typical population.  But, one thing definitely has not changed since 1994 – the concern about small numbers of women debate coaches.  Although I’m sure there has been an increase in these numbers since 1994, I wonder how significant that increase has been.  I wonder if those statistics are held somewhere. 

If I hear anything back from Pettus, I will let you know.  In the meantime, if anyone out there is looking for areas to research or problems to solve, this article might provide you with some starting points.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] under: Forensics – General, Feminism/Gender, Debate — bk2nocal @ 3:07 pm In relation to this previous post on a study from 1994 on coaching debate and raising children, I thought I might post some other […]

    Pingback by Sexual Harassment in Forensics - 6 years later… « Its debatable…Speak Up! — June 29, 2007 @ 3:07 pm | Reply


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