Tournaments: Vermont

Huber Debates

Huber Debates took place at the University of Vermont on the 6th and 7th of November. Again I judged six rounds in the competition and I learnt a lot. This time I was not bothered by the rate of the speeches at all. Perhaps debaters were not as fast as in Binghamton but more likely the reason is that two months of listening to Lawrence Debate Union practice debates at the Huber House has been very good listening comprehension practice. I actually enjoyed judging most of the time. This was because some of the chair persons made the adjudication an interesting exchange of ideas, not showing off skills although showing them. I would especially like to mention Sam Natale and Chris Lattuca (on the right in the picture; I did not judge with Stephen Boyle, on the left in, so that’s why I am not mentioning him ). I had inspiring discussions with Sam and Chris when adjudicating and between the debates. This reminded me of two things. I have been puzzled by my enthusiasm to promote debating because firstly, I have no intention to start debating myself and secondly and most importantly, I have felt that debating is missing something very relevant. At Huber Debates it didn’t seem to be missing anything because the adjudication was what it should be: constructive discourse. This is the area that I would like to develop in my courses. For a long time I have wondered how to enhance constructive collegial discourse in my teaching and now I think I’ve found the place for it in debate. It is a very interesting process: debate needs to have clash and after that follows the real constructive part in the team adjudication.

 As I have said before, debating is a great tool for practising work life communication skills (cf. LDU Debater Statements). Apart from realising how debate can be very constructive, several other questions have emerged as well: questions about the role of debate as intercultural communication, English as a Lingua Franca issues and a million questions about how thinking/argumentation can be approached in the English language classroom to provide skills for a global context. It may be that I will not have time to read fiction for a while. I know that I can only start to work on the reading, but I see no other way to follow now.

The combination of debate plus this intercultural experience has inspired me a lot and Professor Alfred Snider’s World Debate Institute has been a wonderful place to discuss and develop these ideas. What I am about to unfold will not surprise my colleagues back home: I think I am on a mission! 😀 For me this mission is about my professional development and enjoying my job as a teacher of English as a Lingua Franca for Academic/ Professional Purposes. When I now read books on ESL/EFL education, I feel really happy about having chosen English as my major in the previous century. My decision based on exposure to English at an early age through popular culture which my older brother brought to me through Radio Luxembourg  and by subscribing to Fabulous magazine. I was home-schooled in popular culture but of course it was the media in general and the Finnish language education policy that sealed my fate with this language.

Technological development has made world-wide interactive and instant communication possible. That alone makes demands on language education. A growing number debaters from universities around the world come together to play the game of debate and to enjoy intercultural encounters, this year in Botswana. I cannot help but think that this is something that educators should be interested in.

 Now blogging in English in Vermont, I want to think globally not just because of language and technology but also because Worlds format debate makes me do that. Language policies are and should be always debated, but to me this is clear: the global world needs a common language to be able to debate and build a better world. This is the challenge language educators are facing now: imagining that the world will live as one.

P.S. To see the Vermont debate photos by Anni click here.

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