Monday, October 20, 2008

World Debate Institute Kicks Off First Debate Tournament in Venezuela

Participants in one of the semifinal debates

Hello from Venezuela. I am Alfred Snider, director of the World Debate Institute.

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 Carbbean sea. The "Avila," or lovely moutain 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 success.

Friday 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 are highly motivated.

The tournament completed successfully on Sunday with a rousing final round won by USB MN on a 5-4 decision, with some of Venezuela's top citizens judging.

Congratulations to Rita Moncada, organizer trained at WDI, and everyone who participated. WDI will be there to support you in all of your future efforts!

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