Guest blog author: Alexander Käll
Debate is a great way to improve analytical thinking and public speaking skills.
Debate is a platform which allows for intellectual competition and meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Myself (Alexander Käll), Lovisa Hökstrand, and Oscar Engelbrektson traveled to Istanbul, with our coach, Micheline Grönlund, to take part in the Eurasian Schools Debating Championship. It lasted 5 days. It was an educational trip, mainly because we debated with world-class debating teams from across the globe, but also because we were able to see Istanbul, a very interesting city seemingly torn between two cultures- The West and the Middle-East.
We debated the following motions:
TH= “This House”
BT= “Believes that”
- THW allow the sale of human organs.
- TH supports a system of tradable quotas.
- THW allow indigenous communities to sentence their own members for the crimes they have committed.
- TH regrets the rise of safe spaces on university campuses.
- THBT the state should not fund projects whose primary aim is to beautify cities.
- THBT religious institutions should not receive funding, tax exemptions or other financial privileges.
- THW place an upper limit on individual donations to electoral campaigns.
- THW allow parents full access to their childrens’ social media accounts.
We debated against teams from Qatar, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Turkey and others. We sometimes found that our being accustomed to quite clear, dialect-free English could cause problems. Often, we could not understand what the Turkish teams were saying. This caused us two unwarranted losses (according to us at least)… We interacted with the different teams and found out about how they live. As one can expect, people came from varying backgrounds. A common trait seemed to be that they were serious about their education. Amongst the breaking teams, especially the national contenders, people took debating very seriously. The South African team spends 15 hours per week debating.
As a team, we improved drastically during the course of the debate, feel free to check the speaker-scores. We learned more about the respective speaker-roles, how to take notes, and how to best utilize preparatory time before impromptu debates. We observed some of the best teams in the world, and gained insight into the more complex processes involved in high-level debating.
Observing these debates, we were inspired to improve, and interaction with teams like South Africa gave us the tools to do this- literally- they gave us their prep-notes. We think they were put to good use.
Throughout the week most of our time was spent preparing for, or engaging in, debating. We had little free time, but we were able to try some traditional Turkish food. Walking in the streets of Istanbul, we were struck by the differences between the city, and our native Stockholm. There were stray cats and dogs everywhere, as well as quite many homeless children. This was quite saddening. The children would jump out at people leaving stores, trying to sell tissues. Many people who appeared to come from Middle-Eastern countries were dressed in a western fashion, with jeans, leather jackets and colourful jumpers. However, it looked somewhat as though the entire western side of Istanbul (we didn’t have time to see the Asian side) was “stuck in the 90’s”! Current fashion did not seem to have reached them… This was very interesting and exotic.
Seeing teams who have truly mastered the art of WSDC debating, speaking with such engagement and flexibility, was an invaluable, and unforgettable, experience, and its lessons far exceeded those of conventional education. We learned to think and speak quickly and critically, to engage with dissidents, to understand the complexity of controversial issues and to use rhetoric which appeals to a wide array of human feelings, reactions and thoughts.
Congratulations to our VRG Debate Team: