Mission & Programs

WHSFA Logo

The Wisconsin High School Forensic Association (WHSFA) was founded in 1895, making it the oldest secondary school speech or debate organization in the country. The WHSFA works to fulfill its mission to provide an opportunity for students to enhance communication skills through participation in Theatre, Debate and Speech activities. About 10,000 students participate annual in WHSFA sponsored events.

Theatre

Theatre

The one-act play festival series runs from October through November, with 70-80 schools participating annually with shows of up to 40 minutes.  Since 1990, WHSFA has worked in conjunction with UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies and the Alliance of Wisconsin Theatre Education to organize the state festival for about 1,800 students from 40-50 schools to actively participate in play performances, hands-on workshops, and showcase presentations.

Theatre Goals & Objectives
Association Goals
  • To provide a significant training ground for students in dramatic arts.
  • To provide multiple opportunities for member schools to view each other’s dramatic work.
Association Objectives
  • To emphasize actor training, script analysis, and the creative design and use of production elements.
  • To maintain a system of multiple production opportunities grounded in workshop and festival counseling.
Student Objectives
  • Skills
    A. Develop skill in oral language and all expressive mechanisms (voice and bodily expression).
    B. Develop understanding in psychological, moral, physical and socio-economic analysis of character (analytic skills).
    C. Learn the elements of stagecraft and production (craft skills).
  • Intellect
    A. Understanding the investigation of literature, history of divergent societies and cultures, and drama as a social force (cognitive base).
    B. Develop an appreciation of an aesthetic and intellectual activity (affective base).
    C. Learn the channels for creative dramatic work through original productions and alternative forms of theatrical expressions such as dance, mime, etc., (creative base).
  • Social
    A. To realize the simultaneous opportunities for leadership and group participation (group-level cooperation).
    B. Meeting and interacting with students from other schools in the context of a social and intellectual activity (acculturation).
    C. Promoting school and community relations through a display of the school’s intellectual and artistic work (school-community).
    D. Develop recreational outlets for the future (future).

Debate

Debate

The debate season runs from mid-September through mid-December. The WHSFA is currently working to revitalize debate in Wisconsin, engaging schools from parts of the state that traditionally have not participated, using the accessible Public Forum format. Debate is one of the best ways to teach critical thinking, research skills, and constructive approaches to conflict resolution. It also meets all core standards in English Language Arts. Click to learn more about how debate works.

Debate Goals & Objectives
Association Goals
  • To provide a significant training ground for the development of students communicative abilities.
  • To provide opportunities for students to practice and share their skill development.
Association Objectives
  • To create learning situations in which students develop proficiencies based on sound educational and communication theories.
  • To provide judges who will make judgements based on educational objectives and offer a critique which will help students achieve them.
Student Objectives
  • Skills
    A. To understand and communicate various forms of argument effectively in a variety of contexts.
    B. To develop the ability to analyze controversies, select and evaluate evidence, construct and refute arguments.
  • Intellect
    A. To learn theories that seek to explain the process of communicating arguments with people.
    B. To clarify one’s personal and social values through confrontation with the value judgements of others.
    C. To participate effectively in situations where decisions must be made.
  • Social
    A. Promoting school and community relations through participation in an intellectual activity.
    B. Meeting and interacting with students from other schools in the context of a social and intellectual activity.
    C. To realize the simultaneous opportunities for leadership and group participation.

Speech

Speech

From February through mid-April, about 6,000  students participate in the speech festival series. Of that number, approximately 4,500 students from 340+ schools, participate in 16 different categories — ranging from original speeches to performance of literature — at the State Speech Festival, held on the UW-Madison campus in April.  Since 1990, WHSFA has facilitated speech adjudication training to prepare judges for certification, required at all official WHSFA festivals.

Speech Goals & Objectives
Association Goals
  • To provide a significant training ground for the development of students’ abilities in public speaking and in the oral interpretation of literature.
  • To provide multiple opportunities for students to practice and share their skill development.
Association Objectives
  • To create learning situations in which students develop proficiencies based on sound educational and communication theories.
  • To provide evaluators who will make judgments based on educational objectives and to offer an evaluation which will help students achieve them.
Student Objectives
  • Skills
    A. Develop skill in oral language as well as voice and body expression.
    B. To critically evaluate ideas and beliefs of others and to draw logical conclusions.
    C. To learn effective organization of ideas.
    D. Develop ability to recreate the written thoughts of others through vocal delivery.
  • Intellect
    A. To learn the fundamentals of research and how to use this research for drawing conclusions.
    B. To learn to organize ideas and present them clearly and concisely.
    C. To develop insights into universal human experience as well as emotion and aesthetic values.
  • Social
    A. Promoting school and community relations through participation in an intellectual activity.
    B. Meeting and interacting with students from other schools in the context of a social and intellectual activity.
    C. To realize the simultaneous opportunities for leadership and group participation.

Middle Level

Middle Level

The Middle Level Division thrives with about 3,000 students participating in two levels of festivals. Students choose from an array of 14 speech categories, which are a combination of individual and group events. Constructive evaluation in a safe atmosphere empowers pre-adolescent students to gain confidence in the important life skill of oral interpretation.

Middle Level Participation Philosophy

Teachers who work effectively with students in middle level grades are aware of the adolescent need for positive reinforcement and success. Therefore, the WHSFA Middle Level Division is founded on:

  • Opportunities for participation
  • Opportunities for learning; and
  • Opportunities for success.

Mission

  • To provide an opportunity for students in the schools of Wisconsin to enhance communication skills though participation in Theatre, Debate and Speech activities;
  • To promote and encourage cooperation among various communication organizations within Wisconsin;
  • To provide a forum for development of standards, skills and materials for participation in all forensic activities.

Membership

“We need constantly to remind ourselves that these contests and all other activities of the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association are educational projects.”

H. L. Eubank

Professor Emeritus of Speech, UW-Madison

Benefits of Forensics