[eDebate] Dispatches from South America
Wed Oct 29 08:34:04 CDT 2008
Just wanted to share...
Hello from Venezuela.
I am in Caracas, which is supposed to be the city of eternal spring,
since it is near the equator but in the mountains so it always has that
It is lovely city, nestled between mountains that separate it from the
Caribbean sea. The "Avila," or lovely mountain range, separates it from
the ocean. It is nice, but the traffic is unbelievable and hostile.
There are obviously too many cars, and it has the worst traffic I have
seen in the known world. The people are friendly and the climate is
friendly as well.
I am here for the first ever Venezuelan university debate tournament. I
had a great lecture opportunity on Thursday afternoon at a local
univeristy and about 90 people showed up to hear me talk about debate as
a teaching tool in non-debate classrooms (literature, history, political
science, etc.). They were attentive and seemed to like me, asking lots
of questions and staying involved. Local organizers said it was a big
Today the tournament started. They have had a lot of debate workshops
here but never a tournament. Students seemed excied and ready. I judged
four rounds today and have the following observations:
Students seemed more ready that most beginners, because many of them
have had model UN experience and have been to workshops held by the
local organizers and staffed by excellent Spanish-speaking trainers from
the USA, includling Luis Magallon, Brenda Montes, Kenda Cunningham and
Sandra Maroschka. .
I was pleased with their knowledge of the topic area, which is expanding
representation on the UN security council. While not omniscient, they
knew quite a lot.
They had a very good idea of what the important issues were in the
debates, going right to them and spending time there.
They seemed really into it and highly motivated.
Today we had four rounds, and tomorrow we will have three more rounds
and then break to semifinals.
I feel as if I witnessed a transformative moment in Venezuelan debate.
The work and the trainers that had previously been done now paid off in
a real debating tournament.
Day Two has come to the first ever university debate tournament in
Venezuela. Let me answer some questions about it that you may have
before I get to the results.
The format used was American parliamentary debate with teams of two and
three speeches by each team. Each team has five minutes prep time during
the debate. The topics were announced well in advance so there was a lot
of time to research. There were a number of workshops and practice
sessions leading up to the tournament, with one being all day Thursday.
The workshops just before the tournament were presided over by Luis
Magallan (ex of CSU Fullerton) and Yvanna Cancela (Northwestern
University). There were seven preliminary rounds. Teams had indicated
whether or not they could debate in English. Some teams debated in
English, some only in Spanish, and some in both. Teams were then cleared
to semifinals. There were sixteen total teams in the tournament.
The four teams that reached the semifinal round were: UCB VV vs. USM NP,
and USB MN vs. UCAB MH. Both rounds were tightly contested and the
winners were: UCB VV and USB MN. Tomorrow they will meet in the final
round in front of a panel of luminaries from Venezuelan society.
I cannot say enough about the spirit and determination of Rita Moncada.
Here is a woman who had a dream and a vision, and she has turned it into
a reality. She wants her country to have a more open expression of ideas
and wants to stimulate its democracy through preparation of young people
for real democratic participation. She has knocked on many doors, sought
many allies and paved the way for this tournament. None of this would be
here if it were not for Rita. At some point she will be revered and
remembered for her tireless work here. For me, that moment has already
arrived. Thank you, Rita.
The atmosphere at the end of the semifinals was excellent. People did
not wnat to leave (to the consternation of the custodians) as they
continued to linger and share their experiences and stories. People
seemed very happy, very motivated and hopeful about the future and what
they would do in future debates. Those of you with debate experience
have seen it, and you probably agree that it is awesome. I love seeing
young people get so excited about ideas. I know in that moment that our
civilization will survive.
Tomorrow we will have a varied program:
Judge training for the finals
Rita Moncada will welcome the crowd.
A speech by me about Venezuela entering the confederacy of debating nations
The Final Round.
The judge deliberation and decision.
The awards assembly: team and speaker awards.
I will have a nice afternoon and then make my way down the hill to the
airport at the seaside and wait for my evening flight to Chile. I will
fly through Lima to Santiago and on to my next debate adventure in Chile.
And the beat goes on...
The tounament is now over. Universidad Simon Bolivar, the team of Pedro
Montuenga and Jamil Navarro are the champions. They defeated UCB VV
Gabriela Vera and Nelson Villavicencio in the final round on a 5-4 decision.
The last day featured a talk by me (Alfred Snider) about the global
debating community and what it means for Venezuela to join it, and a
review of the accomplishments Venezuela has made under the leaderhsip of
Rita Moncada and the Instituto Venezolano de Debates. Then Brenda Montes
and Luis Magallon, formerly of California State University Fullerton)
staged a demonstration debate for the audience. I did a short session on
training for our judges, who come with impressive backgrounds in various
parts of Venezuelan society. Then the final round was held. It was an
impressive and dynamic contest.
The top five speakers were announced, and four of them were women, with
special recognition of Nazly Escalona who was the top individual debater.
We have a new nation in the family of debating nations. Congratulations,
In Santiago, Chile the final round of the national schools tournament
took place on Tuesday October 21 2008. It was the conclusion of a long
process as 144 schools from all over the nation participated. Regional
tournaments were held throughout this geographically diverse nation. The
event was sponsored by Universidad Andres Bello, long a leader in
promoting debating here.
Four teams made the journey to Santiago for the final day. In the
semifinal round the teams of six debated the topic that "Love at first
sight is impossible." In this format there are five speeches, the middle
ones allowing points of information, and one of the team members
specializes in making points of information. The two teams advancing
were the Newland School of Santiago and Colegio Sancredo Corazon from
They met in the final round, where the motion was that (loosely
translated) in everything we do or say and in all instances we must be
true to our principles. Sancredo Corazon was affirmative and Newland
School was negative. It was a spirited debate, especially the points of
information. The judges were a distinguished panel of citizens (an
ambassador, naval officer, journalist) along wth two debate experts,
Alvaro Ferrer from Universidad Andres Bello and Max Murath of the
Universidad de los Andes. Both of the debate expert judges, by the way,
are fellows of the World Debate Institute and have studied there, and
Alvaro has also been a faculty member.
The decision was announced among some tension and fanfare, and the
winner was Colegio Sancredo Corazon of Concepcion.
48 schools also participated in the English language version of the
tournament which had been concluded earlier.
This was an amazing turnout for Chile. Congratulations to all the
schools and especially to the sponsor, Universidad Andres Bello.
I was in Chile this last week for a series of events sponsored by
Universidad Andres Bello's Sociedad de Debate. My hosts were Felipe
Karadima, Alvaro Ferrer and Catalina Bascur.
There were huge groups turning out, at least 150 at each session, and
with some sessions more than 280, which means overflow rooms and a
shortage of headsets for the simultaneous translation that was offered.
Monday 20 October - Workshop with teachers and schools alumni in
Santiago, conference about Advanced Debate Skills for competition:
general skills on strategy, argumentation, points of information and
Tuesday 21 October - National Debate Tournament Final in Santiago: I was
the judge of honor and made a few remarks. After this we took a plane to
Wednesday 22 October - Workshop for teachers in Concepci?n: "Critical
Thinking in the class: debate as a teaching method across the curriculum".
Part of the big crowd in Concepcion
Thursday 23 October - Workshop in Concepci?n: conference about Advanced
Debate Skills for competition: general skills on strategy,
argumentation, points of information and delivery. This is the one that
was a total overflow.
Friday 24 October - Workshop with teachers and schools alumni in Vi?a
del Mar: conference about Advanced Debate Skills for competition:
general skills on strategy, argumentation, points of information and
Alvarro Ferrer and Catalina Bascur
It was a great experience, I got to reconnect with many old debate
friends in Chile (Max Murath, Rodrigo Rojas, Lila Diaz and others), and
experience what is a beautiful, friendly and extremely active debating
I am back in Vermont. Just wanted to add that I spent none of my debate team's money on this trip. It was all funded by those I visited.
Alfred C. Snider aka Tuna
Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics
University of Vermont
Huber House, 475 Main Street, UVM, Burlington, VT 05405 USA
Global Debate Blog http://globaldebateblog.blogspot.com
Debate Central http://debate.uvm.edu
World Debate Institute http://debate.uvm.edu/wdi/
World Debate Institute Blog http://worlddebateinstitute.blogspot.com
802-656-0097 office telephone
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