Resolved: That We Should Talk about HSLDA Debate, NCFCA, STOA, and CFC/ICC, Part Two
Note from Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator: I sent my thoughts on homeschool speech and debate to a close friend from NCFCA to have it proofread. She responded with some reflections about her own time in NCFCA — my essay stirred some memories. I asked for her permission to post her thoughts alongside my essay because I wanted a female voice on this topic and her response was very sincere, visceral, and empathetic. This is what she wrote.
This is such an important issue.
Listening to Elizabeth Smart when she gave that talk, I cried, because I used to think that way, too, and I know how trapped she must have felt and how disgusting. For so long, I absolutely thought “impurity” made you worthless. (As far as I can tell, that belief was something I picked up from a youth group leader, Harris books, unfortunate miscommunication in evangelical circles, and some of the NCFCA culture rather than my parents. I don’t think my parents really had fully figured out what they felt about the “purity culture” — they both had pretty wild pasts and wondered if there was a way they could protect their kids from it.)
I also know that I judged girls who behaved a certain way — girls that I now know I could’ve been close friends with and probably given a huge amount of companionship and emotional support to. The culture within the NCFCA kept friendships like that from happening on a large scale. (Especially as I consider myself to have been far more apt to “cross over” than many.) That makes me so angry.
I also remember a few occasions during NCFCA events when men made me feel genuinely unsafe — some guys were very predatory and harassing. And I remember every time I would be put upon by their advances, I would end up feeling guilty and shameful, like it was my fault. I really believed it was. It kept me from talking about it with anyone ever. (Fortunately I was emotionally safe enough with family and friends that I was never fully victimized.)
One thing that strikes me most about that culture we were in was the mixed messages. So much of the culture and ideology depended on the individual leading your local speech and debate club (usually 10-30 families). These families would plan and host tournaments. My mom and some local coaches who were far less patriarchal — they would give us long talks about how, as a woman, what you had to say was JUST as legitimate, that you should never be intimidated by a guy in a debate round and you should just be confident and hold your own, etc, etc.
Then I would go to another club or tournament and the local people there would give me the whole “women must carry themselves graciously and submissively.” I remember losing a round once because I was too assertive to a man in cross-examination, which was “unbecoming.” And it was really confusing.
I do want to say that I owe my professional confidence almost entirely to that experience, and the experience with CFC and NCFCA. Despite the mixed messages and plentiful paternalism to go around, the overwhelming lesson I carried away was to communicate as well as you could — to communicate better than the next person, male or female. Bottom line.
And that training has stuck. Part of it came from facing and facing down paternalistic attitudes — knowing there was something wrong with them and then in college developing the foundation to really push it off. Now, as a woman in a male-dominated business culture, I don’t experience the feelings of intimidation many of my female coworkers talk about and I have become a spokesperson for my company on account of that.
I’m grateful for the training.
Contribute your story or thoughts to homeschool speech and debate week!
Is this a healthy or unhealthy environment for young people to grow up in? What are your stories and experiences with the homeschool speech and debate world? Were they positive, negative, or a mixture? These organizations were a vital part of many of our experiences with homeschooling in high school and no subject or institution is off limits here.
As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.
If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at email@example.com. The tentative deadline for submissions will be Saturday, June 29.
* HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Bethany” is a pseudonym.