In an effort to encourage collegiate-level debate in China, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes and students Yiqun “Ted” Cheng ’13 and Melissa Hosek ’14 visited Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NUST) Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.
Thanks to a grant from the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), the group from HWS provided debate coaching, instruction, and assistance during a three-day event that included workshops and competitions. During the recent trip, Associate Professor of Education Helen McCabe, Barnes’ wife, also helped with logistics, translation and cultural interpretation.
“This is the beginning of what we hope is a sustained effort to create a number of vibrant regional debating leagues in China that would continue activities on their own even after the grant ends,” says Barnes, who is the HWS Debate Team coach.
Participation at the event in China is part of the team’s growing international profile in debate.
This past year, Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12 and Will McConnell ’12 were named the 2012 United States Universities Debate Champions. The duo headed into the tournament ranked 21st in the world. Recent years also have shown a stream of success for debate at HWS. In 2008, the team gained recognition around the world after hosting an international tournament which attracted the attention of IDEA, the organization behind the grant.
The recent debate program in Nanjing was part of a continued three-year project that promotes debate education in China. HWS is one of the partner schools of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, which was awarded the IDEA grant to carry out the project. Barnes has been involved with debate education in China for several years, but credits Cheng, a member of the HWS Debate Team for his important work on the three-day event.
“Cheng is a widely respected debate figure in China,” Barnes says. Cheng has held debate leadership roles in China and, in 2012, won the China Debate Open. Cheng also was the deputy chief adjudicator for the FLTRP Cup, China’s most prestigious debate tournament.
Cheng’s experience debating in China helped prime him to be the perfect facilitator to travel from HWS to the event in Nanjing. Hosek already was studying abroad with the CIEE Beijing Intensive Language Program at Peking University.
“The program was competitive,” says Cheng. “But it also emphasized the communication aspect of debate. It’s not a fight; it’s about understanding each other. It’s great for critical thinking and cross-cultural understanding.”
Of the more than 130 university students who participated in the event, Cheng says the feedback shows that students enjoyed the programming. Although debate still is “fairly new for those students, the program really exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he says.
“One of the very exciting things about the program is that there was such a great enthusiasm, with more than 25 schools represented,” says Barnes. “I think there was a distinct improvement over the course of the three days. There seemed to be a real thirst for debate.”
In addition to the debate program, the group from HWS also met with teachers and administrators at Tianhua College to make arrangements for hosting a subsequent tournament in March 2013.