Letting Kids Loose In A University Debating Tournament Is Putting A Gag To University Debaters

Posted on June 16, 2009

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In all forms of artistic and competitive behavior, we all seek to be the first. Without this particular human nature, all paintings on the pub museum (if there is to be one) would be similar and there would be no point for the Olympics. There are very few ways to paint a pint of beer in a meadow or to be remembered in the Olympics for years to come, but what fascinates me is the charge to be the first is never exhausted.

In competitive debates for instance, it’s rather depressing to think that no matter what you say or how you argue, you will always be unoriginal. You can spend years reading on a particular subject matter, only to have some debating dunderhead arguing back: “You’ve stolen that idea from Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, you fat, bastard!”

I’ve recently been adjudicating a lot lately – Arau Open and ICRC IHL Debate. While judging a debate round at the ICRC IHL Debate, which ended last Sunday, incidentally, I turned to Sherrie and said: “Oh no. I’ve heard this before.” And I can be absolutely sure that this is not the first time I had ever said or thought of such a thing before. It’s mind boggling. Why would anyone want to use a classic argument? Even if the motion is about the abolishment of the death penalty. Classic arguments are all rubbish. My five year old metaphor of the can opener is rubbish. They are typewriters in a computerised world. So why would anyone chooses to use those arguments?

Simple. Anyone who uses a classic argument, dislikes debating. They dislike and lack the capacity to research, read and most importantly think originally.

Our friend who is never first is almost certainly someone who merely reads. All his reading materials will be articles and thoughts of other people (which is apparent especially when the bulk of his arguments hinges on parallel examples or models) and he would be spending hours at night trawling the internet for interesting views and comments on current issues.

When the club meets, he gets away and selected for sounding like Thomas Friedman. The trouble is that all of us quite like the idea of being classic. But here’s the sad truth: kids can do classic too. And perhaps, thats why KGV whooped the living cockles out of university debaters at ICRC IHL Debate and reached all the way to the finals – they had the classic arguments, a pinch of analysis / argument that was rather refreshing and manner that was pleasant and sincere.

To be first, you need to stand out. Be the refreshing vibe that would jolt the adjudicators from their deep slumber and grip of boredom. Start of by saying something that no one in the world has said before. Something outrageous. Say something like, “I was just about to have elephant burgers. But they ran out of buns.” Or: “My elephant has just exploded.” No one has ever said that before. Or: “My God, Ahmedinejad is doing a good job.” Or: “Kim Jong Ill. Mmm. Tasty.” Or: “The thing I love most about my teammate is his herpes.”

You end up with an audience and most importantly, a panel of adjudicator, interested and keen on listening to what you have to say. And here’s the clincher, if your adjudicators are bothered to listen to you, attentive and have the patience to perceive the message that you want to bring across, there’s a big chance that you could succed.

But then again, I am never too sure whether I should believe all the weird entries (including this one) that I have wrote. I am full of nonesense and have morals that would even surprise a zoo animal. Anyway boys (Rafiq, Qureysh and Arvind), well done and keep up the good performance.

Results of the ICRC International Humanitarian Law Debate 2009

Motion: “It’s a tongue-twister and I can’t remember”
Champion: IIUM 1 (Khalidah, Danial, Meor)
Runner-up: KGV1 (Rafiq, Qureysh, Arvind)
Best Speaker at the Final: Meor (IIUM)
Best Speaker Overall: Maketab (UTMARA)

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