The English Speaking Union of New Jersey has two debate league for middle school, Garden State Debate, and Jersey Shore. Participating schools across NJ each year debates over 5 times from November to April.
My son is part of the Garden state league and has been attending this league for the last three years. I have nothing but great things to say about the debate league. It is such a joy to see young kids debating on some serious topic with depth and suave. Politics, science, technology, current affairs, socio-economic problems to world issues, the teams debate on all such topics with such astute enthusiasm.
The topics are usually announced 4 weeks ahead. There are 4 topics and teams need to prepare for both proposition and opposition. The teams are the size of three, first speaker, second speaker, and a rebuttal person. All teams debate for all topics.
20 minutes before each debate the topic is announced and the debaters at that moment know whether they are proposition or opposition. In those 20 minutes, they are allowed to write their assertions and notes on a single white sheet, before they go in the room. The debate is 30 minutes long with each speaker getting 5 minutes to make their points or, refute and rebuttal their opponent’s point.
Over these years I have seen how it has benefited my son. He is better organized, can do great research, play in a team, distill information, act on feet and above all speak in public forums without any stage fear.
Last year I was trained to be a judge. I will be honest, judging is not easy. One needs to keep track of time, take notes, give time signals, make sure rules are followed and above all keep the biases away. The judge’s opinion doesn’t count, it is always how the debate takes the course. Simple to state but hard to follow.
Every year end there is a state level contest where every school sends their best teams. My son’s team was one of the selected team to go this time.
The final tournament was yesterday. My plan was to drop my son at school. The school arranged a bus to take the debaters to the venue. If you know NJ, it was in Rumson. Home to Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. So, around 7 in the morning I dropped him and was about to leave when the principal of the school requested for my help to Judge. Well, I had my day planned and was not in any frame of mind to judge. Besides, I was in my pajamas.
Every school needs to bring two judges( you don’t judge your own school teams) to support the league and one of the appointed judges fell sick. I had to help. I ran home, took a shower and drove for an hour to reach the debate venue.
This was my first time to Rumson. And I could see the affluent neighborhood gracing the streets. Most of the houses looked like castles, with a trimmed lawn and contemporary designs. I reached on time and judged two debates. Despite my early reluctance, I was glad to be there. It was such a pleasure to see young kids doing so well. My son’s team won 2 encounters and I also got to see him debate. Here were the topics the teams debated on
- Eliminate Farm Subsidize
- President term should be one term of 6 years
- The US should not interfere in Venezuela affair
- The first amendment shouldn’t protect lying during an election campaign
Overall my son’s school got the most wins and the top team award.
How was your weekend?
Copyright © Shantanu Baruah
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