Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Article from an IDEA Alum on Love and Debate...

Debates & Love

By Peter Zhdanov, Demosthenes Club, Russia, Novosibirsk-Moscow,

I have known Katrin since first grade: in midschool she liked me, then the feeling has evaporated, and it was my turn to fall for her. Anyway, by the time we entered high school all this love hassle has been sorted out, and we became very good friends.

One day we were quite surprised to see each other at the weekly meeting of the college’s debates club. Katrin became the second speaker of our Carl Popper debates team, while I ended up being the third. Together we have successfully participated in a couple of tournaments and have seen a few APD games presented by students of various Russian universities. Impressed and dazzled by their brilliant manner, we swore to ourselves that we’ll continue playing debates after we graduate from school.

In 2003 we entered Novosibirsk State University, on of the top schools in Russia. Katya’s major was Sociology, while I was into Math. We kept attending trainings on the APD format in the famous Demosthenes Club, tried judging and coaching and have gotten to know many interesting people. However, with the end of George Soros’ sponsorship program most of the Russian debates clubs were left struggling for survival. The “golden era” of debates in our city has passed, and we decided to switch our attention to other occupations and hobbies.

I still wonder who (or what luck) brought us back to the debates world in 2006, when I and Katrin were invited to judge the school Carl Popper championship of our district. I fell in love with a charming little girl with fluffy hair from the same school that I used to attend – Eugenia Stepanzova – who managed to win the tournament. She inspired me to continue my debate activities and lure Katrin into playing together in the upcoming open debates cup of our university. I became the team leader, while Katrin proved to be a great member of the team. Naturally, we won the cup, and that was only the beginning: trainings, tournaments, debate camps, writing a book – “Debates – the Art of Winning”, etc. Btw, in the semifinals of our very first APD tournament we have beaten two rather gifted guys (would-be champions of the city). One of them, Artem Zyatkov, was so impressed by Katrin’s looks and style that they ended up dating each other.

In 2007 Katrin and I graduated from the university and were admitted to MA programs of two prestigious Russian economics schools, located in its capital, Moscow. We are looking forward to participating in the activities of the Russian debates society, making new acquaintances, trying out the BPD format and, eventually, successfully participating in the WDC. No matter what, debates have already helped us to boost our public speaking skills, develop a critical way of thinking, get to know remarkable people and…even find our significant others!
Therefore, I sincerely believe that the pompous slogan of Demosthenes Club – “Debates are a whole world” – is in no way an overexaggeration.

Have a great time playing debates,
Peter Zhdanov

2nd IDEA-BFSU British Parliamentary Debate Tournament

IDEA’s involvement in China continued successfully last weekend with the 2nd IDEA-BFSU British Parliamentary Debate Tournament in Beijing. Hosted by Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) and jointly sponsored by IDEA and the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (FLTRP), the event drew over 200 debaters not only from Beijing, but also from as far away as Nanjing (10-hour train ride), Xi’an (10-hour train ride), Dalien (overnight train), and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia (the grand prize for the longest trip – a 2-day train/bus/jeep journey!). Many of the participants from the IDEA training at BFSU from November 2-4 of this year were at the tournament eager to put that session to use. Materials from that training can be found at

This tournament featured impromptu debate topics which fell into one of 8 pre-released categories: Iran’s nuclear program, US troops in Iraq, UN Peacekeeping, private automobile ownership, technology in the classroom, Isreal/Palestine and the 2-state solution, the World Bank, and flaws in Western development models. Thus debaters knew the themes of the tournament but not specific motions. Even though debaters expected to have debates about UN Peacekeeping, for example, they perhaps did not expect the semi-final motion “The UN should have a standing Peacekeeping force.” This format encourages research but maintains the excitement of impromptu debating.

The final debate featured strong performances from all eight debaters on the topic “Reject the Western development model.” Even though all four teams put forth a strong effort, the second opposition team, comprised of Ellen Pang and Ji Zha from Peking University, were ranked 1st on the ballots of all 7 judges. After extolling the virtues of the free-market system and Western legal norms governing contracts and business rights, the Peking students argued that the Western model is not simply wasteful and exploitative, but improves the lives of people in countries where such models are implemented well. The final results from that round, and the top 4 teams in the tournament (out of more than 100 – quite an accomplishment!) were:

First place: Peking University - Ellen Pang and Ji Zha
Second place: Central University of Finance and Economics - Ji Ruonan and He Jingkai
Third place: Beijing Foreign Studies University - Chen Hao and Wu Mian
Fourth place: Beijing Foreign Studies University - Zhou Sheng Ru and Rui Yuan

Even though these four teams got the thrill of debating in front of a large crowd, all teams got at least 6 preliminary rounds and 32 got the chance to debate in octafinals. Simply to break into that top 32, teams needed an average of 2nd place in each preliminary round with high speaker points to advance.

As evidenced by this tough competition, debate seems to be becoming ever more popular in China. This May’s FLTRP Cup promises to be a large event and tournaments around Beijing will be held throughout the Spring. We hope to see you at IDEA-related events in China again in the future!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Update from Marcin

Dear All,
We are reaching the end of the wonderful event we have had in Jinja - tomorrow is the last day: featuring one more preliminary round, then semi-finals and the finals.
Yesterday all the participants started working on preparing their cases. They had been divided into teams the evening before and selected names for their teams.
We worked in 5 lab groups with participants, focusing on running policy cases on the topic: this house would strengthen protection of children's rights in Africa.
The teams then prepared their cases and each lab ran practice rounds for their teams.
In the evening we had a judges' briefing when we addressed the questions of logistics of the tournament as well as professional behavior of judges.
In the morning, we had two rounds of debating and all the teams had a chance to debate on both sides of the resolution. The debates I have seen were great and we got very good feedback on other debates from the debaters and judges alike.
In the afternoon we had an excursion to the source of the Nile and the rapids - it was an unforgettable experience and believe me- many pictures were taken today :) (of the most beautiful scenery).

In the evening, we had a cultural night, during which the participants presented their songs and dances- Rwandan and Ugandan.

Tomorrow we will have more debates- one more preliminary round after which 4 teams will be selected to the semi-finals.

After the final round, we will have the closing ceremony- we are expecting the Major of Jinja as well as the Rwandan Ambassador as the guests of honour!

After the ceremony, we will have a bonefire, plenty of Ugandan delicacies and many opportunities to dance to the sound of African drums.

I will send you my last report from Jinja tomorrow and a lot of pictures after I come back from Uganda.

All the best,

Monday, December 03, 2007

Marcin's Report from the African Youth Forum in Jinja

Dear All,
We have completed the second day of DtD Forum in Jinja- hosting students and coaches from Uganda and Rwanda.
Yesterday, following the team building and ice-breaking sessions, we introduced students to the basic elements of public speaking, organization, style and delivery. Students then selected a topic of their choice and prepared a 3 minute speech (under the guidance fromcoaches and trainers). They practiced delivering their speeches in front of the small groups and volunteers presented their speeches in the evening during a Public Speaking night. We had so many volunteers that we had to organize another Public Speaking night today!

Today, students were introduced to the working of a mock parliament and were given time to work on the resolutions on the themes of the rights of children. In the afternoon we had a session of mock parliament with students presenting and debating their resolutions. We divided debaters into mixed teams today, and tomorrow they will be preparing their cases on the topic: This house would strengthen protection of children's rights in Africa. We have 20 teams and the first ever international Karl Popper Debate Touranament in Africa will start on Wednesday. Everything is going well- we have great debaters, coaches and trainers. I will submit my report from Jinja on Thursday.
All the best from sunny Jinja,

Liz Goes to the National Council of Social Studies Teachers Conference!

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Carson-Garland, and I am the new administrative assistant for IDEA U.S. My office is located at Willamette University. I am very excited about being apart of this wonderful organization. I will be handling the accounting, bookkeeping and event registration here on the West Coast.

I just returned from the NCSS conference in San Diego, California, where I worked along side Martin Greenwald promoting our Idebate press books to Social Studies teachers from across the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing our materials with these teachers and introducing them to IDEA. It was such a rewarding experience, as I knew with each book purchased, our materials would be integrated into their curriculum, teaching students to think critically, and encouraging them to take an active role in society through debate and discussion. I am privileged to have the opportunity to work for IDEA, and I look forward to working with all of you in the future.