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Old Debaters Never Die; They Run Independent Bookstores!

Another reason to support making debate a graduation requirement for all South Dakota high schoolers: old debaters are keeping the book business alive in Watertown! Former Watertown debater Renee Scriver runs The Book Zealot, while her old coach, Donus D. Roberts, the points-earning-est debate coach in all of these United States, runs DDR Books.

Two independent book stores in a town of 22,000 people? That’s one smart town! Watertown’s smarts come in no small part from the four debate classes their high school offers.

Neither Scriver nor Roberts says the local intelligentsia are making them millionaires (the intelligentsia never do). Scriver and Roberts both depend on visitor business:

“We don’t have a lot of 5’s pulling up to our store,” said Scriver, referring to Codington County license plates. She relies on regulars from as far away as Sioux Falls and Brookings and as well as many local communities.

Roberts said summer months and the current holiday season are his best-selling times. What hurt his business was the closing of the Goss Building, which had brought tourists to the downtown area and his store. But he was well aware of that risk in 2016 when he took his part-time business to full-time in a downtown location [J.T. Fey, “Watertown Bookstore Owners Struggle to Stay in Business,” WPO via Sioux City Journal, 2018.12.10].

But the bottom line isn’t always the bottom line:

“I guess the bottom line is when you come to work, do you like opening the door,” Roberts said. “The answer is yes” [Fey, 2018.12.10].

That’s certainly why I open the blog door every morning.

Give the gift of reading… and give it from your local bookstore! Go see Scriver and Roberts, and wrap up a classic… or a western… or The Book of Ch’I… or Michelle Obama’s epistle to America.


  1. Steve Pearson 2018-12-10 09:07

    You should look into the new changes for graduation requirements in SD. The three different “levels” coming. Just a crap way to make sure everyone “graduates” so the schools have perfect numbers. It won’t help kids in the real world, we already dumb everything down.

    I supposed, though, that is the liberal sides ultimate goal = dumb sheep are easy to lead.

  2. o 2018-12-10 09:12

    Steve, how do you make the leap to call this a “liberal” goal? The graduation levels you refer to come from the SD DOE, do a bit of research and you will find three or four superintendents who pushed that agenda. Who of that group are “the liberals?”

    It looks like you are taking a page one from the propaganda playbook: blame the other side for your sins.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2018-12-10 09:22

    Speaking of dumbed sheep being led, how about Trump’s deplorables?

  4. OldSarg 2018-12-10 09:35

    Book stores happen to be one of my favorite hangouts. We still have a couple of them in Rapid. Mitzi’s is closest to the house and gives me a great place to find and swap books. It would be great if she did coffee and such but being where she is business is a bit slow. I guess I just like locally owned businesses period. Owning your own business opens one’s eyes to how difficult an over-bearing government can make things on the same business. Book stores are not the place to ask the proprietor what they think of the government. . .

    Steve’s right in a way about the dumbing down or education simply to be able to award a diploma allowing a school to meet a goal number defined by the state. I think education should be about the student and best preparing that student to become a contributing positive part of our communities. They should also drop the compulsory education until 18 requirement. This just keeps those who don’t value education in the classroom disrupting the students that wish to learn. Remember; you can lead a horse to water. . .

  5. Steve Pearson 2018-12-10 10:54

    How do I say it’s liberal?????????

    Are you kidding me? Who is the Union? Who represents professorships now?

  6. Donald Pay 2018-12-10 11:38

    Steve Pearson,

    We discussed the issue before on DFP when the new graduation requirements were being proposed. Who proposed those requirements? That would be your Republican Governor and the Republican-led South Dakota Department of Education. Liberals and Progressives commenting here seemed in opposition to those new requirements. I recall I said they were “dumbed down.”

    The dumbing down can be seen here in OldSarg, a true conservative, suggesting ending compulsory education for 18 year olds. That sends the signal that education is not important.

  7. o 2018-12-10 12:14


    Again, you go with the ready, fire, aim method; it again serves you poorly. During public comment on the new graduation rates, the teachers’/professors’ professional organization was questioning elements of this change.

    You are with the the liberals in position on this issue, and although late to the game, welcome to the team! Your team jacket will be in the mail shortly.

    Isn’t it frustrating when conservatives in charge do not listen to reason? Now you feel our pain.

  8. OldSarg 2018-12-10 12:23

    Donny, when you read have you ever made the effort to understand as well?

  9. Steve Pearson 2018-12-10 12:25

    You’re right. The state is going along with it but make no mistake. It was proposed by the Administrations of the districts. Specifically Sioux Falls.

    Conservatives do not want education to be lessened. Liberal elites do. For pretty obvious reasons.

  10. o 2018-12-10 12:46

    Steve, how do you think “liberal elites” became “liberal elites?” We “liberal elites” want MORE education because education makes more liberal elites. At least get you slurs in the same lane as your objections.

    You are off your game today — this is lazy work.

    I think I want to fact-check you claim this came from Sioux Falls administration. On what evidence do you make that claim?

  11. o 2018-12-10 12:51

    Steve, you are spiraling, so I did one of your fact checks for you. It seems more education means a tilt Democrat — so Democrats WANT more education (if we are attributing only self-preservation motives to actions) From Pew research:

    Democrats lead by 22 points (57%-35%) in leaned party identification among adults with post-graduate degrees. The Democrats’ edge is narrower among those with college degrees or some post-graduate experience (49%-42%).

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-10 12:53

    I get the feeling Steve’s ready-shoot-aim approach also dropped this comment on the wrong post, perhaps intending to focus on civics education instead of nice bookstores in Watertown?

    But here we are, an O is showing the inaccuracy of Steve’s Fox News template when imposed on South Dakota. The graduation requirements that chafe Steve, O, me, and many other people interested in rigorous education were approved by a state board of education appointed entirely by Republicans. If you’re not happy with graduation requirements in South Dakota, your complaints don’t go to the DNC or Nancy Pelosi or Antifa or Noam Chomsky or whatever other boogeymen you’re reading about in your chain e-mail forwards. Send you complaints to Dennis Daugaard and the SDGOP.

    On your way to the post office, stop by The Book Zealot and DDR Books. They can probably set you up with some books that will educate far more than those chain e-mails.

  13. Steve Pearson 2018-12-10 12:54

    That could be in the past but this new generation is trophy everything liberal mentality wastes of society.

    Sioux Falls, for example, is maxed out in their graduation rate. It is impossible to increase anywhere from where they are unless they change the game or just lie/fraud their way to better amounts. And it’s not just them but the districts are the ones pushing this. The State I think will just go with it because they want higher numbers.

  14. Donald Pay 2018-12-10 16:19

    What does “being maxed out in there graduation rate” mean?

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-10 17:41

    Steve, please, stop wasting your time trying to impose the pre-fab Fox news template on South Dakota issues. It doesn’t fit; it’s too incomplete to point toward practical policy solutions at this state level.

    I don’t need to say a word about Donus Roberts’s political beliefs to point out that he held students, including myself to more rigorous standards than whoever wrote the requirements that Steve is trying to use as an excuse to keep spooning up his Fox News pablum. Donus Roberts held me to rigorous standards directly in the handful of ballots and critiques he wrote for my performances in high school speech 30 years ago. More importantly, he and his fellow coaches sent several students into rhetorical battle with me in speech rounds. Whether his Arrow speakers beat me or I beat them, those competitors pushed me (as Coach Roberts pushed them) to fulfill rigorous standards.

    Donus Roberts’s example influenced my work as a teacher, coach, and judge. His example affirmed my commitment to holding students to rigorous standards. 20 years after “retiring” from coaching, Roberts continues to uphold rigorous educational standards when he comes to judge speech tournaments and in his work with the national student speech organization.

    He’s also spending his “retirement” encouraging his neighbors to read good books.

    So, Steve, tell us: is Donus Roberts a conservative or a liberal? Does it matter? Does every aspect of your world have to confirm your narrow worldview? (Again, Donus Roberts has a cure for that: read more books!)

  16. Donald Pay 2018-12-10 19:54

    Donus Roberts must have been in his last years of coaching debate when my daughter went through her four years of competition (1997-2001). She spoke about him as if he was a god. I guess he was a debate god. Those were long drives for Rapid City schools to compete in Watertown. The teams didn’t get back until after 3:00 am. I misheard the name, so I thought his name was Donuts Roberts.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-11 05:34

    I think I attended Donus Roberts’s “retirement” party on Lake Kampeska in 1999.

  18. Porter Lansing 2018-12-11 06:45

    I was lucky enough to be a student in Donus’ inaugural American Studies course. A daily three hour course much like what you described, Cory. An in depth inspection of the correlation between American English, History, Music and Art. I thanked DDR in 2004 for the impact that study had on my life and career. American Studies is still a jewel in the Watertown curriculum. (I’d tell more but people seem more introspective these days.)

  19. Debbo 2018-12-11 21:19

    Independent bookstores are one of the best things any town can have. So are libraries. 😍😍😍 My town of 21,000 has top notch examples of both.

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