Debates, Propositions, and Discussions

This weekend I ventured to Vysoké Mýto to supervise the English debate team which consisted of five students aged 14 – 18. Although I knew all of them before from my lessons and the club meetings, this weekend was a great opportunity to really get to know the students on a personal level. I roomed with two of the girls, so our room turned into the team meet up place. We prepared for debates, celebrated wins, commiserated loses, and bonded with each other in my room.


Before their first debate!

Throughout the weekend, they had five debates in English – two on corruption, two on protesting, and one on teenage smoking. The debates were in Karl Popper Style, which is a style that is widely used in Eastern Europe. Most of the other teams were from a boarding school in Prague where the students have all of their lessons in English. Despite this, we did pretty well for our first English debate. I went there expecting just to watch (having never been to a real debate before) but was asked to do time keeping. It’s such a nerve-racking job! I remember in high school when my basketball team was up by 2 points with 2.4 seconds left on the clock and the timekeeper started the clock late. This allowed the opposing team to make a half-court shot and win the game. I didn’t want to make such an error so I could barely focus on the debate itself (which we won). However, I had many more opportunities throughout the weekend to witness some truly magnificent debates. Although our main team didn’t win the competition, one of the girls was on the winning team.

The team!

The team and I!

The cultural differences between the US and the Czech republic never cease to amaze me. First of all, 15 and 16 year old students were in the pub drinking, out front smoking cigarettes, and dating, yes I said dating, their debate coaches. Sometimes I really can’t believe how tolerant this culture is of teenagers doing whatever they want. I remember when I was in high school, my friends and I were on a college trip and our teachers caught us when we left our rooms after curfew to visit our friends in another room. We were punished, and for good reason – the teachers were responsible for us and we had broken the rules. Here, the rules seem to be more like guidelines than anything else and truly unacceptable behavior in the US is considered normal here. Anyways on the first night I went out with the judges, coaches, and some of the debaters to a nearby pub. It was really fun to talk to some of the judges who were charismatic, interesting, and extremely intelligent. I ended up getting into a debate of my own about whether smoking should be allowed in pubs/restaurants. It made me wish that I had done debate in high school although I’m not entirely sure my school had a debate team come to think about it. The other judges asked me to think about becoming a judge. By the end of the weekend I decided that I would attend the weekend –long training to become a judge. I’m glad that I get to continue to participate in some capacity!

I had no Internet this weekend so I didn’t know about the tragedy in Sandy Hook until yesterday. It broke my heart to think about those poor  students and teachers who were killed in this senseless act. My thoughts and prayers go out to their family, friends, and entire community.