Colorado College Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life Mike Edmonds has been elected by the KEY Society, one of the nation’s most prestigious forensics educators honor societies, as an honorary KEY coach. Edmonds accepted the honor at Emory University, where the society is housed, on Jan. 27.
Edmonds was cited as a major force in forensics when selected for the recognition. Said Melissa Maxcy Wade, executive of director of forensics at Emory University, “Mike is, simply, one of the nation’s forensics treasures.”
Forensics helps people think critically, speak publically, and persuade others, Edmonds said. “You have to weigh the material, analyze it, and articulate a point of view. Sometimes the analysis shows you that there are multiple truths; that everything isn’t always a solvable problem with a single answer. If there are multiple approaches, you find what the best approach is at a given time.
“Isn’t it better,” the dean of students and vice president for student life adds, “to have something settled after being questioned from all points of view? To solve differences with the spoken word and have real resolution?”
Edmonds began his forensics career as a seventh-grader in Clarksville, Tenn., and majored in theater and speech at the University of Mississippi. He says he joined the debate team while in junior high school for a variety of reasons: it allowed him to banter in a constructive manner, enabled him to travel, was an activity applicable to life – and because he had friends on the team. He has maintained his love of the discipline ever since, and the skills he began cultivating as a teenager have stood him in good stead throughout his career.
Qualities such as tolerance, patience, openness, and critical thinking are central to good debaters, and they also help facilitate dialogue and discussion in a classroom – and in life, Edmonds said.
Having good debating skills “gives you the opportunity to be comfortable having discussions in which you are passionate, but also willing to listen to opposing views. Good debaters are only credible if they know how to give the opposing view a credible and graceful exit strategy,” he said.
Edmonds is especially humbled by this award as he has not been an active coach since the early 1990s. However, he judges at least three high school tournaments a year, one of which is always the national high school tournament. Edmonds was selected for the award by his peers, and the fact that the award is peer-chosen means a lot to him. “These people are my friends and mentors, and I respect them so much,” he said.
The role of a good coach, Edmonds said, is to develop talent. “You need to know how to spot potential and understand how to use it.” A good coach knows a debater’s style, knows what topics work, what piece of literature to use to back up an argument, and what chemistry works best on a team. “A good coach brings out the best in both the individual and the team,” he said.
“I fundamentally believe that the sustainability and evolution of forensics is inherent to constructive dialogue,” Edmonds said. “It’s not one’s win/loss record, it’s the ability to solve differences and see another’s point of view.”