WSDC 2011 – Scotsman Coverage


This is part of the WSDC 2011 series as I recount and report on the World School Debating Championship 2011 in Dundee, Scotland as a debater, blogger and Wales national team member.

As I’ve noted, half the competition is now over and today will see Round 5 and 6 completed. Yesterday, the Scotsman published a feature on the World Schools Debating Championships along with some extracts from biographies written by the teams themselves. There was also this interesting coverage of Team Wales’s debate against Team Scotland in Round 2. Full article included below:

Across town at St Paul’s Academy, there is a home nations clash, as Team Scotland takes on Team Wales in the first unprepared motion. At 12:50pm each team opened an envelope and learned that the topic of debate was: “This House Believes In The Free Distribution Of Music On The Internet.” An hour later, in a small classroom, Charlie Holmes, resplendent in a kilt, begins the debate for Scotland with a rousing speech lambasting the current copyright laws as “draconian” and “outdated” and articulating the current belief in contemporary society that the downloading of music is no longer a crime – certainly not one deserving a £200,000 fine for the illegal downloading of a 99p single – oh, and as musicians draw their experience and ideas from society, society shouldn’t have to pay.

They have now built the court on which Wales will play. What is interesting is that it appears easier to win with an opposing argument than a proposing one. Alfie Hinchliffe, of Team Scotland, explains afterwards: “It’s easier to be destructive than constructive.”

Paul Lau – a recent signing for Team Wales after his move from Hong Kong – likes to look his best when tearing apart an argument. As he reaches the podium, he makes a point of putting on his suit jacket with a stylish flourish, rather like Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett in The West Wing, the complete box set of which you well imagine young Mr Lau owning. Wales go on to win the debate.


From http://living.scotsman.com/features/The-world-view-A-closer.6821786.jp

The world view: A closer look at the World Schools Debating Championship
Published Date: 21 August 2011
By Stephen McGinty

In the highest echelons of World Schools Debating, where the air is thin and the brains are big, you start to notice the little things about style. For instance, at 10am on Thursday, on the elevated wooden stage at Morgan Academy in Dundee, Team Estonia has opted for a choreographed uniform of crisp white shirts complete with cuff-links, black suits with matching waistcoats and blue ties, tightly knotted. The tone is set by their coach, Kasper Kelder, whose programme note comments on “his beautiful blond locks of Estonian hair”, as well as his “heart of gold”. He’s a serious chap, but one with a fetching goatee.

Team Canada, in contrast, has a relaxed insouciance. Sure, they’re wearing ties, but they’re too casual to button the collar or knot them all the way up. Instead, you can imagine them in class, slouched and twiddling their pens – but still shouting out the right answer. Before they begin they unfurl their red and white maple leaf flag and fasten it to the front of the table: it’s now sovereign territory.

At the front of the stage are two podiums with microphones and on the floor beneath, sit three judges. The first motion is: This House Would Offer Dictators Immunity In Return For Leaving Power.

A pupil from Morgan Academy, one of Dundee’s oldest schools, announces the rules and the debate begins with Team Canada supporting the proposition. Debi Ogunrinde, a small dark-haired girl from Halifax in Nova Scotia, strolls to the podium and begins to talk fast – very fast; very, very fast; in fact so fast that if my shorthand was good enough to keep up, the friction between pen and paper would surely have ignited the pad into a small glowing bonfire. So, instead I sit and listen as, in a multi-point presentation, with a four-fold model, she sets out a cogent argument for allowing the cruelest despots to flee justice on the grounds of the greater good of preventing further bloodshed.

During Debi’s eight-minute speech the three pupils in Team Estonia begin to pop up and down like meerkats. It turns out they are making Points of Information, but Debi instructs them to sit down – by not even looking at them, but merely flapping her hand, as if dribbling an invisible basketball. After she has said her piece, it is time for Rauno Kiviloo from Team Estonia to make a spirited defence of global justice and the necessity of the International Criminal Court.

And so it goes on, each of the team’s three debaters making an eight-minute speech that both builds on their over-arching arguments and scoops up and throws back the opposing team’s Points of Information.

And you know what? It’s fascinating and, in a perfect world, Red Bull would be sponsoring this global celebration of eloquence and argument in a multi-million-pound deal. Debating, it would appear, gives your mind wings.

While the debate is going on, I quietly slip off to the school’s library where among the stacks another international is playing out, between Team China and Team Barbados. The small audience listens as Sally Feng defends, in slightly stuttering English, the nobility of justice, the need of victims to see the culprits in the dock and “that the rights of dead people should be respected”. As an example she points to the bitterness still felt by the Chinese victims of Japanese atrocities during the Second World War. But Che Greenidge, deputy head girl of Harrison College in Barbados, is not having it and hammers home the need to persuade dictators to leave the country, and thus prevent further bloodshed, as quickly as possible. When she finishes, her team-mates clap.

Back in the main hall the debate between Canada and Estonia has drawn to a close and the judges have now left the room to decide upon the victor. Each judge marks each team out of 100. There are 40 points for style, 40 points for content and 20 points for strategy. The decision is unanimous: Team Canada has won. (Team Canada are good, very good – in fact, if Team Canada played football, they would be Brazil).

I had thought that the judges, like me, would let the debate wash over them before holding up their numbers, as if in a cerebral version of Strictly Come Dancing, but that would be to diminish the effort put in by the students. Afterwards, one of the judges, Joseph Park from Korea, shows me his compendious notes with different coloured lines matching each line of argument with the opposition’s corresponding rebuttal.

Before breaking for lunch in the school canteen, I catch up with Team China whose gregarious, over-the-top programme note (see panel, right) is the talk of the competition. Sitting in a semi-circle, the team agrees that they wanted to break-down the clichés and stereotypes about their nation and present themselves as exactly what they are: teenagers in love with knowledge and pop culture and anxious to learn more about the wider world.

“We will all be going to Chinese universities, so this is a great chance to see other countries,” said John Ye, the team captain who is anxious to sample the whisky and get himself a kilt. Amy Wu, who is already resplendent in a tartan mini-kilt, wants to learn more about “noble England”, and I can’t help but hope she missed their recent ignoble riots.

THE World Championships are divided into two sections. In the first half, each of the 47 nations takes part in eight different debates, four featuring the prepared motions and four featuring a motion which both sides will get just one hour before the commencement of the debate to prepare for. Next Monday, the top 16 countries will begin a knock-out march towards the grand final.

Back to Thursday afternoon. Across town at St Paul’s Academy, there is a home nations clash, as Team Scotland takes on Team Wales in the first unprepared motion. At 12:50pm each team opened an envelope and learned that the topic of debate was: “This House Believes In The Free Distribution Of Music On The Internet.” An hour later, in a small classroom, Charlie Holmes, resplendent in a kilt, begins the debate for Scotland with a rousing speech lambasting the current copyright laws as “draconian” and “outdated” and articulating the current belief in contemporary society that the downloading of music is no longer a crime – certainly not one deserving a £200,000 fine for the illegal downloading of a 99p single – oh, and as musicians draw their experience and ideas from society, society shouldn’t have to pay.

They have now built the court on which Wales will play. What is interesting is that it appears easier to win with an opposing argument than a proposing one. Alfie Hinchliffe, of Team Scotland, explains afterwards: “It’s easier to be destructive than constructive.”

Paul Lau – a recent signing for Team Wales after his move from Hong Kong – likes to look his best when tearing apart an argument. As he reaches the podium, he makes a point of putting on his suit jacket with a stylish flourish, rather like Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett in The West Wing, the complete box set of which you well imagine young Mr Lau owning. Wales go on to win the debate.

However, all is not lost – Adam McKinley, the Scottish coach, who also works with the tournament’s sponsor, Brodie’s Solicitors, said that Scotland went on to beat South Africa and Croatia yesterday.
He added: “They are continuing to improve and now sit on three wins out of four which is a very strong position to be in.”

To spend a day at the World Schools Debating Championship is to become reinvigorated at the potential of today’s young people; it is an intoxicating antidote to the poison of the recent riots and should be mandatory viewing for all our MSPs. You don’t even mind, too much, that Scotland got beaten by Wales.

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