In October, 1924, Ray Cecil Carter, head of English at Albany, New York, wrote to the Pi Kappa Delta chapter at Ripon College, asking, "Do you know of any association of debaters in which high school debaters are welcome to membership?" The letter came to my attention and brought this reply: "As far as we know there is at present no organization for high school debaters... we would be willing to go to considerable effort to sponsor such an enterprise."
-Bruno E. Jacob
From this inception, the National Forensic league (also known as the NFL) began. The people who began it met, and wrote a constitution describing how the organization was to be run. It was officially put into effect on May 25, 1925, when Florence, Kansas became the twentieth school to ratify. Originally, the limit to the number of chapters was set at 500, but after only a few years, this limit was reached. Partially because of this, other leagues, such as the AFL (American Forensic League) and the CFL (Catholic Forensic League) were begun. Eventually, the NFL began to allow more than five hundred chapters, by ammending their constitution. Now, there are hundreds of thousands of members in more than 1,000 districts.
The National Forensic League oversees most of the high school Speech and Debate competitions that occur in the United States. Most tournaments are run according to their rules, and with their events. It puts out its own magazine, Rostrum. It is currently sponsored by the Lincoln Financial Group (which leads to statements such as "The Lincoln Financial Group Jan./Feb. topic for Lincoln-Douglas debate is Resolved: An oppressive government is better than no government" on their website).
The NFL has had some famous members, including Shelley Long, of Cheers fame, who was a National Champion. Senator Karl E. Mundt of South Dakota was another famous members, actually becoming president for many years. Other major players in NFL history include James Copeland of Wisconsin and Frank Sferra of Colorado (who also happens to be my coach).
The NFL sponsors events (at the national level) in Cross-Examination Debate (Policy Debate), Lincoln-Douglas Debate (Values Debate), Extemporaneous Speaking, Intepretation of Drama, Intepretation of Humor, and Duo Intepretation. They also sponsor Student Congress. And, for those that are eliminated quickly at the National Tournament, there are Intepretation of Poetry, Impromptu, and beginning in 2001, Creative Storytelling. In addition, many places provide other events, such as Duet Acting, Salesmanship, etc.
For each competition that a student of a chapter competes in, they earn a certain number of points. After they earn a set amount of points, they earn extra degrees, which essentially say that someone is worth more people than they actually are (I am at my 6th degree, so I am technically worth six people). The total number of members in degrees that a chapter has determines how many competitors it can send to national qualifying meets.
The NFL is currently headquartered in Wisconsin, although it has, at various times, been headquartered throughout the country, including Albany and the University of Denver.
If you wish to visit their website, go to
You can find copies of the constitution, and the history that I quoted above. There is a great deal of information about the league.