Debating said to help reduce violence

Sunday, May 27, 2018

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Debating , the formal style of discussing a topic used in legislative and academic settings,s is not just an excellent tool for developing oratorical and analytical skills. According to former debater-cum competition judge Andre Palmer, it can also be useful in reducing violence.

“Some of the issues facing Jamaica, like crime, abuse of women and girls, can be solved by constructive dialogue. Debating can help a person in expressing their point of view, allow others to do the same, and even disagree without violence,” he said in a recent interview.

Palmer's own journey with debating started in 2005 when he represented Kingston College in the annual Burger King National Secondary Schools' Debating competition. That year, and the next, when he was again a member of the KC team, were a revelation to him.

“The preparation for a debating competition can be rigorous, requires commitment and full attention if you want to do well. We spent hours analysing the subject matter and that resulted in sharp analytical thinking, the ability to develop a convincing case. It wasn't about being right or wrong, but about being able to express oneself and communicating one's point of view,” Palmer explained.

But more than that, Palmer said, the experience taught him understanding and respect for someone else's point of view even if he did not agree with them. It also provided a platform, upon graduation, for jobs, first as a teacher and later as a business and management consultant.

Now, as a judge of the annual competition, Palmer says, “It is a joy to see the young people come into the space of challenging ideas. The competition now uses the British parliamentary style system with topics deliberately chosen to elicit thought-provoking solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing the country.”

Head of Sales & Marketing for Restaurant Associates Limited Sabrena McDonald Radcliffe says that is the expected result of the annual competition, which is reflected in its mantra: “Challenge the present, change the future through debate”.

Pointing to the recently concluded 2018 competition, which saw six rounds of gruelling arguments for and against the moot: “This House prefers the implementation of social intervention strategies as opposed to the declaration of states of emergency in high-crime areas”, McDonald Radcliffe said that the debate is not an abstract conversation.

“The moots are deliberately chosen with relevance to issues in Jamaica to promote critical thinking, problem solving and articulation of problems and solutions. All of these skills also help the students prepare for CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) examinations. Each year the teams seem more mature in their analysis and arguments and the judges are increasingly challenged to choose the winners,” she said.

This year that challenge came from Munro College and Mannings School, with Munro coming out on top.

One of the Munro coaches, Audley Feare, credited his team's triumph to the school's “very active and robust debating society”.

“The student-led initiative hosts debates throughout the school year, giving various students the opportunity to develop their debating skills,” he said.

“The team chosen to represent Munro in the Burger King National Secondary Schools' Debate Championship made a lot of sacrifices, devoting many hours to practising. Other students in the Debating Society gave their support too, critiquing arguments and sharing ideas and helping to develop points and counter points.”

To ensure each team member developed to the best of their ability, coach Feare said, “We did not write their speeches for them. They did those themselves with our guidance and pertinent questions.”

Munro emerged champion over 60 schools. Eight teams made it to the quarter-finals and shared over $900,000 in cash and prizes.

The 2018 debate season ended on April 23.

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