Are online debates a vehicle for quality debates, based on thorough research, conducive to a better understanding of important issues? Or are they sleek but superficial, better suited to a chat-room like discussion? “In our experience, the first version is more plausible” says Bianca Dragomir of ARDOR.
ARDOR's Debate Academy created a community of students using critical reading and knowledge-based debates as tools for civil involvement.
Alongside critical reading seminars on opinion articles from prestigious journals like The Economist and Newsweek, and public debates where students were paired up with Romanian public figures, the program featured online debates.
Dragomir sees great advantage in using the internet. “Online debates are accessible to students interested in debate from all over the country, regardless of their location. It is an obvious medium for people who are used to spending hours online every day. No less importantly, it is cheaper to organize and to administrate than live debates”.
“Online debates are less spontaneous than the offline ones, but they are also more structured, more analytical and better researched, all due to the fact that students have more time to create and evaluate arguments, to dig for better examples and data.”
Style is evaluated and graded, just as it would be in a live debate. Yet in Romania, there is no creative writing in high schools. Online debates give students a unique opportunity to hone their writing skills.
“Students become more aware and responsible regarding the way they use quotations and sources.” notes Dragomir. “Oral debate sometimes gives room for modified quotations or data. This is less likely to occur online, where everything you mention as proof/quote/example is just a one click distance from the judge and the public.”
Now they are ready to do it all again, on a greater scale! Four Romanian cities and centers of higher education – Cluj, Ia?i, Bucure?ti and Timi?oara – will join to discuss the topic they will have voted as their favorite. This exercise will give an overview on how young people understand issues such as migration, ethnic and racial minorities, public/private education, the Romanian health system, depending on their geographic location and cultural differences.