I want to write about debate! But I'm not sure how, so this will be mostly unstructured rambling, read at your own risk. (Structure, structure, structure! I'm actually getting better at that.)
I am currently feeling very enthusiastic about debating. A big part of that is that I think that I'm getting better and better and it - details see below - and winning (or second place) feels great. At the same time I see concrete things to improve that I believe I can successfully work on. I'm convinced that next year I'll be going to be European Debate Championship, and I don't think I'll end up at the bottom of the tab!
I also have many friends in the debate club, and the frequent meetings and parties and barbecues are wonderful. If only there were less communication problems - it's ridiculous how many people in our debate club have massive difficulties in non-debate discussions.
Sooo, actual debating! I took part in a debate tournament in London, where to my surprise our two teams from Vienna were the only non-native speakers. Oops. I was debating with AP, who I hadn't debated with very often before, but I think we did quite well (and at least once when we didn't it was because he screwed up his speech.) The judges gave good feedback, the debates were good, and motions were okay (This House Would allow companies to pay a higher salary to employees who contractually agree not to have children, THW not imprison people whose racist remarks cause offense on social media forums, THW prosecute toppled dictators for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court rather than in a national court or tribunal, (Keeping the budget constant) THW direct spending cuts at the elderly rather than the young. That last one became hilarious when the third team decided to make fun of it and we got to hear a lot about global warming conspiracy theories.)
Then we had a regular meeting, two social get-togethers - one "everyone brings Arabian food", and one to watch The Princess Bride - and last weekend was the two-day goodbye party by and for AP, who is going to Ireland for a year. He invited the whole debate club, so of course there was a barbecue, cocktails, and four rounds of debate. Two of four teams and one guy of the third team are going to Euros, LK and I were the fourth team, and we got the most points! 9 in 4 rounds (max: 12), quite good. With great motions that I'm going to do in more detail because I remember them better and have the notes still lying next to me.
R1, TH condemns the circumcision of male children, position: closing opposition (CO)
A topic that's currently widely discussed in German media and there were at least three articles I could have read but was too lazy. We got second, mostly because the government side concentrated too much on the religious aspect.
R2, Given the emergence of a strong artificial intelligence, THW grant them equal rights to humans. Position: Opening Government (OG)
I love the motion, and I loved our position. Unfortunately we only had 5-minute-speeches; normally we have 7, but we'd hiked up to a hill with a beautiful view and were afraid that it was going to rain any minute. Trying to define and build arguments on the meanings of consciousness, self-awareness, human rights and their ethics & morality in 15 minutes prep time wasn't easy, but fun. In hindsight we should have explained what an AI was in more detail: both LK and I are science fiction fans and didn't think that people would confuse AIs with robots. One team seemed to argue entirely on the basis of the movie "I, Robot": "They'll fight against us!" I was trying to think of slavery analogues, but none of the other teams would have known the Ood, and I thought about the house elves too late. We won, which always feels extra nice if you're 1st gov.
R3, TH Believes the public education system should raise the aspirations of children from disadvantaged backgrounds beyond that which is realistic to expect them to achieve. Position: Opening Opposition (OO)
Unfortunately OG screwed up the definitions, and their direction always majorly influences the whole debate. They picked working class children as the group from disadvantaged backgrounds that they wanted to focus on, which is a very poor choice because a) many examples would have worked much better with immigrants, for example, and b) they failed to define "working class", which has different meanings in every country, and for this debate we had an international judge chairing via Skype (!). Their example for a poorer family was one where the main earner is an electrician, which is not really a bad job (to be fair, we managed to sneak in that example *g*) We won, partly because nobody challenged our assumptions.
R4, THBT the private ownership of guns is beneficial for society. Position: CG
We had difficulty with this in prep time, and then first government really screwed up. (We need guns to defend ourselves against the government because it is oppressing us, you have the right to shoot a policemen when you think he's trespassing on your rights, and we have to be prepared for civil war soon. To make matters worse they set the debate in the US, where people already have a lot of guns, and made it into "everyone should have guns." Nothing made sense.) But we couldn't contradict them, so we tried to ignore them and concentrate on the sources of violence, power imbalances in society etc. We got 3rd, which I'd have said was fair, but then during feedback it became obvious that the judges hadn't listened to us when they told us what we should have said by basically quoting to us exactly what we did say. -.- LK, who is not the most diplomatic, got into an argument over it with RH, who handles these things poorly and ended up yelling at him that he didn't deserve to be here because other people need the training more. WTF, how should the teams going to Euros train if you let them compete against newbies, and LK and I were the strongest team in the room. So that was a sudden unpleasant interlude near the end.
But I made good speeches, I learned a lot, and I'm happy about that. In the least two speeches I finally managed to calm down enough to eliminate most of the "uhm"s, mostly because LK told me twenty times to take deep breaths.
(In the unlikely case that someone is interested in one of these motions, I'd be happy to elaborate :) )
Another great thing about debate club are the people. Only there's this 'thing' with LK that sometimes results in uncomfortable moments: he's not very diplomatic, he's direct and sometimes almost aggressive when arguing, and he doesn't hide the fact that he's one of the most experienced and best debaters we have. Many people in our debate club don't like him because they find him condescending and/or insulting. I can see where they're coming from, but from what I've seen it's mostly a problem of both sides not understanding each other's communication styles and getting everything horribly wrong. It's like watching trainwrecks. I never had that problem with him (possibly because it reminds me of my father and I had to learn how to deal with him) and LK has become one of my best friends. (I also have a completely platonic crush on his girlfriend, who is amazing, seriously, that woman. A geek, a fantastic cook, a computer programmer, a musician, and just all around wonderful.) He was the one who invited me to Doctor Who nights. :) Apparently all debaters love to gossip, which is great for letting of steam but becomes uncomfortable sometimes when they complain about LK and I'm the only one in that specific small group who wants to defend him. You'd think that debaters should be able to deal with people who have different opinions and assumptions especially well, but the opposite seems to be the case, they all seem to be trying to "win the debate" - but without actually employing the argument skills they've learnt. I have no idea why! It can get frustrating at times.
This post is less unstructured than I feared, huh. I even did rudimentary signposts ;)