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Purple Killer Bunnies.

That was the name of Ethos for two years before we decided to get a name with some credibility (“Ethos,” get it? Har har).

In 2003, when I truly fell in love with debate, I admired debate coaches so much. Never did I think you all might let me become one. So let me start with some thank you’s.

Thank You:

  1. You – To the curious ones. The ones who want to learn. The ones who keep researching, even though the quote said something they needed. The parents who start their children in debate, not aware yet the partnership, heartbreak, team dynamic, and traveling highs and lows that debate can bring, yet are happy that it happens. To the ones who kept hosting Ethos camps, even though we’re scary sometimes and tell some people not to debate. The ones who kept encouraging me, even when the league bans us from having a booth at nationals so they can compete with us with their “official curriculum that’s the only one that meets our high moral standards,” having never read ours 🙁 To the ones who sent their cases in for review after review, because learning is hard but you just have to embrace it. Thank you for letting me meet you and enjoy the rush of learning as – I think – I always learned more from you than you did from me.
  2. Lisa Alexander – My debate coach from high school co-founded Ethos with me and we pounded out the sourcebooks together in the early years. She encouraged this entrepreneurial drive and freed me to pursue a broader range of Ethos possibilities by letting me take over completely. I learned so much from you, and am forever grateful for the ability to experiment with what I affectionately call my “fake business.”
  3. Amy McPeak – You’ve been behind Ethos our whole 10 years of marriage, even doing the sourcebook one summer, building the “presentation presentations” we still use at camps, and letting me teach at over 100 camps. Thanks for being part of the team.
  4. The Old Guard – Peter Voell, Tim Edelblut, Lydia Bode, Josiah McPeak, Esther Shipsey, Joanna Walters, Nathanael Yellis, Zach Robbins, Isaac Kim, Ty Harding, Tim Snyder, Jon Chi Lou, Chloe Snyder, Kawika Vellalos, Drew Chambers. These were the golden years – before every homeschooler was graded on a scale of how close they got to Harvard, taking 6 online classes each year, and testing all their lives, to cram in the normal-ol-education that keeps them from mastering debate and rhetoric. You are some of the most adaptive and amazing people I know. We don’t do “schedules,” because we hold ourselves to higher standards: individualize the learning to the students there at that time, pushing them to grow the most with exactly what they need the most. You all inspire me with what you’re doing now.
  5. The New – Emily Rose, Thaddeus Tague, Drew Magness, Joel Erickson, Noah Amedick, Ty Humphrey, Abbey Lovett, Clare Downing, and so many more. You all re-ignited a fire and pushed me to write down the 120+ Ethos camp drills/exercises we use, to actually make a real schedule, to come up with phrases like “objective-driven coaching,” to start the Ethos XL coaching program and to get more organized. You’re the best. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for your futures.

Why All of a Sudden?

It’s really not that sudden, it just seems that way. I’ve been saying I would quit running Ethos for about five years running, and then someone or something inspires me to keep going. But now I’m holding Ethos back: 1. My full-time job at statUP requires my 150% energy, as co-founder of an early-stage startup. 2. My family needs me to not be as much “debate coach by night” father as my current 10 evening meetings per week plus camps has me doing.

I had been training one person to take over Ethos all summer, with the intention of exiting. It turns out, another person I was accidentally training, was even more up for the challenge.

What’s New: Emily and Thad

Emily Rose and Thaddeus Tague are taking over Ethos. I’m selling it to them for $1. When I told them I had to step down and was going to close Ethos, they said no, that what we do needs to be done and they want to continue and grow our impact.

Emily Rose wants to be a professional debate coach, and boy does she have what it takes: a love for all ages, a dedication to classical rhetoric, tireless energy, and a personality that finds the success of others as the ultimate success.

Thaddeus Tague won persuasive nationals several years ago with a speech on male addictions. He has a heart of gold and has been one of the most stable Ethos coaches we’ve ever had. I’m really happy to see him step up to the plate to lead this shindig into its new future.

So sign up for camps. Plan on another amazing season of Ethos XL private coaching (we’ve accomplished over 90 goals set by students this year already!). Join the extemp club next year. Support the mission of training young people to think more deeply, in the steps of classical rhetoric – not the surface level “present better” that most people think of as communication instruction. Emily and Thad know the real deal and are capable of helping clubs, families, and students go deep.

What’s Next for Me:

statUP – We’ve gone from idea to startup to backed company, recently taking in $550k in funding to take our skill tracking app to the next level. I can’t wait until we plug debate into our skill tracking software, so you can consistently level up your skill just like soccer players are doing already. I now lead a team of 8 people around the world, plus Austin-based mobile development, and find myself on the road more and more. For example, last week we had a selective pitch at the MIT Sloan sports analytics conference. Speech and debate learnings are what I use to run the company internally and externally and I couldn’t be more thankful for the role of speech and debate in my personal development.

Rhetorical Intelligence – My mentor, Dr. Tallmon, and I are collaborating on defining “rhetorical intelligence” and broadening the reach of speech and debate into lifelong transference of skill. Everyone knows about IQ, some know about Emotional Intelligence, but the ancient tools of practical wisdom that come from Rhetorical Intelligence have been largely lost in a world of communication fluff. We seek to restore Rhetoric as the great subjectless subject, so much more than a class – a lifelong discipline and commitment. That’s on slow burn, but Dr. T is here in Austin now and we know what we want to say.

Order of the Rhetor – Also on slow-burn, we’ve been working hard to define levels/ranks/skills for rhetoric, making it something far more similar to Boy Scouts or Martial Arts than to “tournaments.” There are local groups in Austin that are pouring energy into testing these methods out, and they’re using the framework we posted here, which is the precursor to this project. Again, this one is a slow burn for me.

Coaching – I’ll still coach my local club, Lone Star, and if I do any private coaching it’ll be REALLY expensive or free, and through Ethos as some kind of retired advisor. Think Obi-Wan Kenobi dying. I’ll be that voice in the ear of Ethos coaches when they want to know the way to the Dagobah system.

Speaking – I actually speak and coach on a wide range of communication topics: interview coaching, professional presentations, debating at work, improving your company’s writing habits, and normal debate coaching. What I’m stepping out of is building a team, securing camp locations, booking flights, running registrations, processing customer service stuff, issuing 1099s, and all the other stuff that goes along with running Ethos – and no more 5-day camps for me. But a day here and there? I’ll still be all about that, sometimes with Ethos and sometimes not. So feel free to book me for that and I’ll probably do some statUP business while I’m in your town for a day or two – but if you want a debate camp, talk to Emily Rose.

And That’s a Wrap!

Training Minds, DFW, and NCFCA probably all perked up at the headline here 😉 But not so fast!

Emily, Thaddeus, and the Ethos team are going to keep rocking it – probably better now that I’m not in the way, missing all my meetings and dropping logistical details right and left.


What I want to leave you with is this: the good news that Jesus brings is that you don’t have to live for human definitions of success, such as winning debate tournaments. Seek to do well, rather than seeking to “get ahead.” This is not only rewarding, it’s what you were made for.

So commit to the Debater’s Code (used here with permission ;), credit to Dr. Tallmon in Upside Down Debate… which you should get if you haven’t). Commit for life and beyond:

“On my honor, I will do my best to wield the power of rhetoric always for the good of my fellow human, never as a means to victory or self- enrichment only. I promise never to treat my opponents in speech contests as means to ends, but always, as Kant says, as “potential members of the kingdom of ends.” I will debate as a teacher, not a conqueror: Docere, Delectare, Movere (Latin for to teach, to delight, to move).”

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