Debating in Toronto
In early May, Kavi G and Afyz M set off with me to the University of Toronto School to take part in the Junior National Debate Tournament. Although they had earned this berth by placing among the top 10 debaters in the BC Provincials a month earlier, they were not prepared for the accelerated pace and bludgeoning force of logic applied by the best 92 debaters from across the country. The competition seemed to take a long time to get going - as if the boys were not already feeling "at sea", the debaters were treated to a tour of the new Ripley’s Aquarium at the bottom of the CN Tower and seemingly endless meals and speeches. Finally, the first round of debate started after dinner on Friday.
They lost the contest to a couple boys from Alberta; our lads were just not used to the style of debate which allowed only six minutes rather than the usual eight to mount a convincing refutation to the opposing side as well as rebuilding their own case (known as the model) to withstand further onslaught from the second speaker.
Afyz was stunned! I don’t think he had experienced losing an argument before that moment. Kavi was irritated. Both of them realized that their ersatz debates on the island had only given them a taste for the bloodsport that was being practiced here. Eyes flashing and bickering slightly among themselves as they walked to the new debate room, the boys faced their second round of competition.…which they won, against a couple of lads from Nova Scotia. Afyz ladled up a much more comprehensive and careful explanation of their model and then Kavi delivered a refutation of the opposition’s salvo with the passion of an older man who’d just been robbed of his most prized possessions and was not going to let it happen again.
For the rest of the next two days the boys won almost every round that came their way, finishing only 0.1 out of a 200 point average score of the semi-finals. Leveraging their hard-learned experience, the boys adopted the new style of debate that had them speaking right past the timekeeper’s warning and into the 15 seconds grace period every time they stood up. The grandiose barrage of hyperbolic words like “sovereignty” and “inalienable” has led the BC team and me to rename Kavi and Afyz as Erroneous and Illogical, their favourite go-to adjectives.
The boys placed 11th out of 46 teams while Kavi placed 10th individually and they ended up contributing very significantly to the 12 person BC contingent. Their coaches will now be struggling to find new competition worthy of their newfound confidence and skill in the years to come; it will not be easy.
Mr. Neil Bryant, Debate Coach