Trying to look for a world-class debater at an interschool debating championship would be like trying to do the same thing with your head up an elephants bottom – impossible. Problem is, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who would put their head up an elephants bottom. Hence, I don’t think I’ve met anyone looking for world-class debaters at an interschool debating championship. But this does not mean the event is bluek!
The first time I attended the IIUM Interschool debating championship, I was adjudicating school kids who were newly exposed to the style of competitive debating in university. Eventhough the debate format between schools and universities is very similar, the way debaters are evaluated is very different. This has made me realize the importance of adjudication in molding debaters orientation or style – something that I would probably like to study (hopefully). What I would like to share however, is my comment on todays’ young debaters and how they fared.
Plainly, I find a great improvement in this years’ debaters. Without looking at the value of the content or matter, we are finally seeing these young debaters debating rather than squabbling on the mechanics of debating i.e. challenging the definition, which was once a very common thing that all these debaters were doing. And if we do look into their content and their arguments, its not all that bad at all. In fact, especially at the breaking rounds, the arguments rather impressed me as I find some being very creative.
This is a big deal and not being too farfetched, I strongly have a feeling some of this years kids could go on and win the Royals junior category, if not put up one hell of a challenge. What bothers me however, is that these young debaters are still significantly influenced by the school’s debating mechanics which I believe is a hindrance to the development of these young debaters to their fullest potential. In fact, I am neurotically apprehensive as it could result in a backward development altogether.
But the sad truth is, school style debating has established itself for so long and engrained itself in the heart of the education system that it has become a culture. Even though I find no point for this old custom to continue, I find it extremely difficult for such a thing to change. There are people and teachers who are very adamant and strongly supports the old ways, despite the proven positive results that university debating style has done to school debaters. These people have bigger clout and a bigger lobbyist in the Ministry of Education.
Trying to talk some sensibility to people who already reject you as young, inexperienced and not learned, is like trying to break the speed limit riding a cow.
Note: The results of the 8th IIUM Interschool 2009:
SMK Green Road from Kuching, Sarawak won (split 6-1) against SMK Islam Hidayah, Johor.