Thursday, November 06, 2008

Debating matters

A turbanned young man of 16 odd years describes himself as 'dreaming of doing what Obama has done".

"Er, you can't become the President of the United States..." he is reminded.

"I know that...I mean, to go out there and create a revolution!"

We are at the Nehru Science centre auditorium, 3000 miles away from the US of A. But Obama has captured the imagination of the world like no other leader in recent times.

A John F Kennedy maybe, but that was close to 50 years ago.

We are at 'Debating Matters', a competition for class 11 students organised by the British Council. These are the regional eliminations. After many more rounds, one team will earn the privilege of going to the UK to represent the country.

The topic of the day: "Man, not machines, should explore space".

As in any debate, it's ability of a team to argue coherently and convincingly that really matters. In one round the 'for' wins the day, in the next it's 'against'.

In one case a team completely buckles under and pretty much agrees with the opposition. It's sad to see this happen but sometimes failure teaches us so much more than defeat.

The third round has two evenly poised teams. Until the Q & A session starts. One team completely loses it - unable to rebut and defend their position.

I have never been a debater but judging this event was an interesting experience. Normally debates are more about convention than clarity. Style over substance.

Here the emphasis was on strength of arguments and ability to think one one's feet. Apart from the judges, the audience also threw questions and was allowed to 'vote' on who should win.

Although our decision was independent and final (in all cases audience and judges' opinions matched in any case :)

The judges were also asked to give detailed feedback to each team. And in the larger interest I am sharing some of the points that came up here:

* An argument must be presented in a structured manner: Point 1, point 2, point 3. With many speakers it was not clear what WAS the central argument.

* You can't read out what you have to say from a sheet. At best you should keep points at hand. It's ok to stumble a bit rather than rattle it all out perfectly.

* Too much research is as bad as too little. Judicious use of facts is the key. Examples should aid your points and not be an argument in themselves.

* Avoid cliches like 'glass half empty/ half full' and so on. Also avoid too many quotes from famous people - we want to know what YOU think on the topic.

* Do not put foot in mouth. While answering questions many speakers went into tangents which led to their downfall.

* When you are obviously in a winning position, don't gloat - be gracious to your opponent. There is a thin line between swagger and arrogance.

And well, I could go on but the biggest takeaway is that you must have clarity in thinking. What are you trying to say? Once you know that everything falls in place.

A debate is not about oratory (yes, speaking forcefully and with conviction matters). But WHAT you say matters more.

This was most clear when teams and audience was invited to 'ask questions'. In true Indian style most people actually 'made points' (and you can see this happening at colleges, conventions, press conferences!).

Mayank Shekhar, who played the 'Simon Cowell' role had to point out at one stage:"A question must end with a question mark!"

In an aside I would like to add that it was heartening to see that many of the 12 young people who came up on stage had pretty offbeat career plans (as of now). Apart from those who wanted to be in business/ corporate world there was a young man from Baroda who wished to be a 'cognitive neuropsychologist'.

Other professions which came up included environmental filmmaker and aeronautical engineer. I wish them all the very best of luck - esp the guy who wants to emulate Obama :).


  1. There aren't many debating clubs around bombay. Why don't you start one? :-)

  2. This is an off-topic and irrelevant comment, but nevertheless I am curious.

    I saw the '3000 mile distance' and told myself - "Geez! I got to got my geography right". And I googled for the city in the US that's nearest to Nehru Science center. Ofcourse, it has to be off the mainland, but I couldn't find it.

    Does anyone know the shortest distance between the US and Nehru Science Center? And how do we actually calculate these distances (Do they use geodesic distances, flight path distances or map distances?) Pretty fundamental question and I am both dumb and curious.

  3. Anonymous9:43 AM

    ralph Lauren polo shirts , Lacoste Polo Shirts, Burberry Polo Shirts.wholesale Lacoste polo shirts and ralph Lauren polo shirts with great price. offers lot of 10 lacoste polo shirts and lot of 20 cheap polo shirts. offers classic fit polo shirts. polo clothing All our shirts made in original factory.

  4. Anonymous9:43 AM

    nike tnEnter the necessary language
    translation, up to 200 bytes winter, moves frequently in Chinanike chaussures showing that the deep strategy of the Chinese market. Harvard Business School, tn chaussures according to the relevant survey data show that in recent years the Chinese market three brands, Adidas, Li Ning market share at 21 percent, respectively,

  5. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Puma shoes , Ugg Boots , nike max shoes, NIKE AIR MAX TN ,nike max shoes ,PUMA CHAUSSURES, NIKE SHOX Torch ,puma Ferrari F1 ,PUMA DRIFT CATmens clothing men's sweate, cheap columbia jackets, lacoste sweater, ralph lauren polo shirts,ski clothing. Free Shipping, PayPal Payment. Enjoy your shopping experience on mensclothingstore.Us

  6. Anonymous9:44 AM

    chaussures puma stores offer you the most popular fashion shoes, including the puma basketpuma puma BanXie and shoes. All the puma product factory direct sale, special processing, create the most inexpensive puma stores.National Weather Service Meteorologist Jason puma CAT said this week's temperatures will mirror seasonable averages of highs around 71 and lows about 42 degrees ...

  7. Anonymous2:42 PM

    活得真累,有些时候我们会禁不住的这样感叹,那些不顺心的日子,我们也总感觉活 wow gold 得真烦。在寻找了千百种理由之后,当我蓦然回首曾经走过的那些岁月,我惊然的发现,其实生活赐予我的,并没 wow power leveling 有与别人有什么的不同,呈现在我视野里的生活,每个人其实都一样,不同的仅仅是我们的胸襟中缺少一份“坦然”。   当看见那些假日的钓鱼者,一大早的出门,在夕阳下却拎着空空的鱼篓回家时,一路上却留下欢声笑语。

      当看见那些早出晚归的农民,在晚霞的辉映下回家时,那张写满疲倦的脸上 wow gold 却洋溢着朝霞一样的笑容。


      突然想起来这样的一句话“天空留不下我的痕迹,但我已飞过”其 wow power leveling 实,这不就是对坦然最好的诠释。


      我坦然,于是我心美丽!我心 replica rolex 美丽,于是人生跟着美丽。


      坦然,其实就是平淡中的一份自信!坦然 wow power level 是一份快乐!是一种潇洒!


      生活里许多的人,我们是捉摸不定的,甚至 power leveling 防不胜防。但,我们不必去计较,更不必去埋怨,我们唯一做的是,当我们必须去面对他们的时候,同样的奉上我们的真心。以君子之心度小人之怀,那不正显示我们的博大的胸襟吗?

      我曾经爱过也哭过,曾经功成名就过,也 rolex replica 曾失败没落过。但,当我回首这一切的时候,我仍然感到骄傲,因为:我曾勇敢地面对了这一切,且光明而磊落!

      假如生活给我们的只是一次又 lotro gold 一次的挫折,一次又一次的失败,其实,这也没什么的,因为那只是命运剥夺了我们活的高贵的权利,但并没有夺走我们活的快乐和自由的权利。

      没有蓝天的蔚蓝,我们 rolex 可以有白云的飘逸。


      没有草原的芬芳,我们可以 power leveling 有小草的青翠。


      坦然,会让我们的生 rs gold 活美丽而快乐!

  8. Anonymous6:12 AM

    I like your blog . They are really great. Ermunterung ++ .please pay a return visit to my blog .thank you.

  9. : 2009 nike shoes : new nike shoes : Women's max : Men's max 93 : nike shox : Nike air force : Nike air max 2003 : nike air max ltd : nike air max tn : Nike air rift : Nike air Yeezy : nike airmax : Nike air max 90 : Nike air max 97 : nike birds nest shoes : nike dunk : nike RT1 shoes : nike SB : nike shox shoes : Nike shox OZ shoes : Nike shox R2 shoes : Nike shox R3 shoes : Nike shox R4 shoes : Nike shox R5 shoes : Nike shox TL3 : nike trainers lovers : tennis rackets : Wilson tennis rackets : HEAD tennis rackets : Babolat tennis rackets

  10. those were sum real gud points....i nvr cared abt sum of them....and it got me reading ur many other posts....i like ur blog, just bookmarked it *wink*.


Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth