Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Great Debaters

One of my favorite classes this semester is a debate class entitled "Major Issues in US Foreign Policy." The format of the class is to have four people debate a controversial topic in foreign policy each week in teams of two. Each debate is preceded by two weeks of intensive research and preparation - the most interesting part is that each team has to prepare both sides of the argument because they don't find out which side they'll take in the debate until 24 hours before.

My first debate was on WikiLeaks and US policy. The statement to be debated was "The benefits of WikiLeaks outweigh the costs."

My partner Alyssa did research on the pro-side while I went about constructing an argument for the con side. We spent a lot of quality time probing each others' arguments and refining our statements. On Wednesday evening, 24 hours before the debate, our names were draw
n out of a hat and we found out we were going to argue the pro side.

The debate was a lively one. Forty or so classmates and faculty came into the auditorium to watch us debate from the podium. The actual content of the debate went like this:

9 minutes: pro speech by my partner Alyssa
3 minutes: cross examination of Alyssa by the opposition
9 minutes: con speech by our opponent Paola
3 minutes: cross examination by us!
9 minutes: pro speech by Yours Truly
3 minutes: cross examination by the opposition
9 minutes: con speech by our opponent Matt
3 minutes: more cross examination by us

- break! -

8 minutes: direct audience questions for both sides
3 minutes: con rebuttal by Matt
3 minutes: pro rebuttal by Alyssa
3 minutes: con rebuttal by Paola
3 minutes: final pro rebuttal by Bryan

Sound pretty intense, huh? Here's a video of my first 9 minute speech:

The debate was extremely lively, with some serious headbutting in the cross examination parts, which ended up looking a bit like aggressive court-room cross examinations.

At the end, the audience voted on who had been most convincing and who had won the debate. Our team just barely won by two points! It was a lot of fun, and afterwards, the class' professor John Harper took us out for drinks. The first debate was a lot of fun

Great thanks to my partner Alyssa and our intelligent, extremely well-spoken opponents (and friends) Paola and Matt.