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.
- 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
The Wisconsin High School Forensic Association has been serving Wisconsin students since the 1895-96 school year. H. L. Eubank, Professor Emeritus of Speech at UW-Madison has stated, "We need constantly to remind ourselves that these contests and all other activities of the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association are educational projects." That philosophy remains consistent with the activities conducted by the Association since its founding.
The annual WHSFA State Theatre Festival is held in November. Since 1990, WHSFA has worked in conjunction with UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies and the Alliance of Wisconsin Theatre Education to provide an avenue for about 1,800 students to actively participate in play performances, theatre-oriented workshops and showcase presentations. Of the many high schools participating, almost 50 schools participate in the theatre performance portion of the festival. Two performance spaces are engaged as invited schools display their theatrical talents by performing full productions of a 40-minute maximum length play. In addition, a variety of workshops offered "hands-on" opportunities to students and directors wanting to enhance their theatre skills.
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. Click to learn more about how debate works.
Each spring, more than 6,000 Wisconsin high school students began the exciting journey through the speech season. Of that number, approximately 4,500 students from 345 schools, participating in 16 different categories -- ranging from original speeches to performance of literature -- make it to the WHSFA State Speech Festival, held on the UW-Madison campus in April.
The WHSFA 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.
Since 1990, WHSFA has facilitated a number of high school Speech Adjudication Workshops throughout the state. These workshops are designed to prepare potential speech adjudicators for certification, which is required of judges at all levels (Subdistrict, District and State Speech Festivals).