[eDebate] Dispatches from South America

Alfred Snider alfred.snider
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 
spring-like flair.

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.
The end.

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
802-656-4275 office fax

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