August 22, 2013
Debate camp is fun and educational, but after four long days of labs and practice rounds we needed a break. The leaders put together an excursion day, and everyone got to decide if they wanted to go to the Cliffs of Moore or Connemara. Everyone except a handfull of people picked the Cliffs of Moore. On the bus people sat by others who were from a different country and it was great one-on-one time. On the way to the Cliffs we stopped at a castle and a smaller version of the Cliffs of Moore. Everyone was so excited to see and learn about the different historical parts of Ireland, that we were taking more time at each stop then was allowed. The bus driver was seemed worried about all the extra time we were taking but made up for it by taking short cuts. The Cliffs were amazing and breathtaking. I wish we had more time at the cliffs because we only cover 3/4ths of the entire cliffs.
August 19, 2013
Each and every day of our lives we make a first impression. This impression can be left on someone whom we just pass on the street or it can be with someone we do want to form a relationship with. In the worst of cases, this impression is bad. This is what happened to me.
Two days ago I was still competing in the Karl Popper Debate Tournament. During this tournament, a simple translation mistake almost created an enemy for me. You see, I was cross-examining an opponent from Kosovo and after he answered one of my questions, I would say “hmm.” He had never come across this communication phenomenon before, and he felt that I was disrespecting him. After the round finished I apologized to him and we cleared up the miscommunication promptly, yet, I did not feel that he accepted my apology.
Today I had to work with Kosovo again. I was afraid that the entire team would remember me and hate me, but this was not the case. We actually had a fun conversation, and I learned a lot about their country and about who they were as people. They even asked me questions about the U.S. After our labs ended for the day, the Kosovo team invited Danni and me to join a game of theirs. We took them up on the offer and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
This whole day just goes to show you that if you can see past someone’s first impression and believe them when they say, “I didn’t do it,” then you can make some new friends.
August 18, 2013
Coaching a team at the Global Youth Forum has been a rewarding and enlightening experience. I was assigned to a mixed team – debaters who did not travel to the forum from the same institution (or in this case, the same country) and did not know each other. These three in particular were from Moldova, Guatemala, and the United States. Many of the rounds used motions that had been released weeks beforehand; although these rounds began only minutes after the pairings and rooms were announced, this was not a problem because of the extensive preparation the three had already put in. Even during the impromptu motions (previously unknown topics that were announced, followed by a mere 45 minutes of preparation time), their knowledge base provided them with plenty of arguments. As well, they cooperated magnificently with one another, especially considering that they had never met one another until a few days ago. My own contributions were fairly minor; in the preparations for one round I intervened only a few times to help them settle questions of definition, and in one other I pointed out certain directions they could choose as lines of argumentation and the arguments associated with them. For the most part I simply listened to them brainstorm and generate arguments on their own. I was proud of them when it was announced first that they were one of sixteen teams to move on to the octafinals (on a record of five wins and one loss), and then when they broke into the quarterfinals with seven other teams. Because I had spent the preliminary rounds judging other teams, the out-rounds were the first chance I had to sit in and watch their debates. It was very different sitting on the other side of the table – neither competing, nor evaluating as a judge or random spectator, but watching as a sort of mentor-figure. My thoughts after having the opportunity to observe their performance firsthand were that their success was to their credit, and that many of their defeats or areas of weaknesses were to be laid at my feet. Essentially, the experience showed me even more what needs to happen in a debate (regardless of style) for a team to be both successful in terms of winning as well as being skilled in the art of debating. It also allowed me to try out a very hands-off style of coaching that I felt suited my own goal of encouraging self-reliance and creative engagement among students. Finally, it was an important test run to determine whether continuing to mentor and coach debate (especially as an international level) is still something that I feel I am interested in and qualified for.
August 17, 2013
The saying goes that, “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” Few people believe these words of wisdom until they experience it for themselves. I learned that although the grass is a different shade of green in other cultures, it is still just grass.
Today marks my fourth day here in Galway, Ireland. I have been competing in a style of debate known as Karl Popper Debate Competition. Through this debate I have made many new friends from such places as Hungary, Vietnam, Guatemala, Canada, Lao, and even Slovenia. Never before in my life have I imagined how many new friends I could make and how much I could learn from these friends. My friend and coach Spela from Slovenia taught me how to say hello in Slovenian (Pozdravi) and that Slovenian does not have any curse words in the language. I also learned from my Hungary friends what the United States looks like to other countries. I found out that how we in the U.S. stereotype other countries, such as being extremely intelligent or physically active, they stereotype us in the same fashion. I also found out that we have many things in common such as foods and music. Although the lyrics to a song is different in many countries, the same basic principles behind what makes that song popular remain.
I have made so many new friends here at this forum I know I will never forget. I now realize that we all have many thing in common. The grass is just a different shade of green for each of us.
August 15, 2013
Our first full day in Ireland was, well, full. Our day opened with a quick bite of breakfast before the morning announcements, prefaced by the playing of the official song for this year’s forum, “Galway Girl” (which will probably be the ‘Call Me Maybe’ of the forum by the time we’re done – catchy and making the quick transition from enjoyable to maddeningly repetitive). Once everyone had been given the chance to know what the day’s agenda was, six of the trainers put on a demonstration of the Karl Popper style of debate (which will be the style the debaters will be competing in for these first few days) on the subject of “Copyright protection should be valid for a maximum of five years.” The style involves two teams of three people, each person delivering one speech and including an additional four sessions of cross-examination, or questioning, between opposing team members. After the debate was over, those in the educational track for judges and coaches reviewed the guidelines for judging Karl Popper debate and discussed the demo debate to gauge people’s reactions. There was a quick break for lunch, and then we divided up for the first two rounds of the Karl Popper tournament on the motion “Actively circumventing Internet censorship is a legitimate foreign policy tool.” Both of the matches that I judged delivered some fairly nuanced reasoning why state intervention may or may not be a legitimate or effective tool for achieving foreign policy objectives (one round dealing with the potential of the Internet as an agent of change, the other examining its impact on social revolutions in foreign countries). The teams themselves were from a wide array of countries – I judged rounds of debaters from Estonia, Serbia, Tunisia, and Canada, as well as judging with a trainer from Belarus (over 50 countries are represented at this year’s forum, and many of the debaters are from the Middle East and Central or Eastern Europe). I think many of the debaters look forward anxiously to tomorrow, when another three rounds (two of them with limited preparation time on as-of-yet unknown topics) await them. Included in this is a team of three young ladies that I will be coaching later on in the tournament, a mixed team of debaters from Colorado, Moldova, and Guatemala. Some teams are burying their noses in research, sponging up every available detail; others are visiting downtown Galway, a fantastic locale whose physical proximity is very much appreciated by those seeking an escape from the dry exchanges so common in debate. I myself am spending an easy evening in, still feeling a bit jet lagged from a day of travel but looking forward to tomorrow’s rounds.