Barnes Extends Debating Experience Overseas – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Barnes Extends Debating Experience Overseas

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes recently traveled to China to be the lead trainer for the Chinese language debate workshop in Wuhan, preparing students for the 2008 Cang Long Cup at the Hubei University of Economics. Barnes, who introduced and provided the spark for what is now the roaring fire of the HWS Debate team, is staying in China with his wife, Helen McCabe, assistant professor of education. McCabe is working on Autism research there through the remainder of the semester. “In late February I saw a posting from International Debate Education Association (IDEA) on a debate listserv about a need for coaches to teach debate in Chinese,” recalls Barnes. Although he is not fluent enough in Chinese to answer the call on his own, McCabe offered to interpret for him. The three-day event began with workshops and training devoted to the many attending whom had never done debate before. On the third day, the participants competed in the 2008 Cang Long Cup tournament. “Because debate is fairly new in China, they flew in foreign experts to conduct the training and run the tournament,” says Barnes. “Since there were so many students and so few teachers, most of the workshop was in the form of large lectures, which is the typical educational model in China.” The IDEA sponsored event focused on both English and Chinese language debate. Both language tracks taught the British Parliamentary (BP) style of debate, which is the international standard format. “Up until this workshop, all BP in China has been done in English,” says Barnes. “And though this is growing quickly, IDEA is committed to expanding debate opportunities in China to those who do not speak English.” With McCabe interpreting, Barnes helped to lead what could be a major new direction for debating in Chinese. The event involved several hundred students from about 30 universities. For Barnes, it was a long road, rich in debate experience that landed him on the plane to Wuhan, China. In 1981, he began debating as a freshman in high school. Then, in graduate school he started to coach high school debate and wrote a debating textbook. As a result, Barnes was asked to help with the debate team at Mount Holyoke, an experience in which he learned about the two popular styles of collegiate debating, called American parliamentary and British parliamentary debate. In 2004, President Mark Gearan (also a former debater) asked Barnes to start a debating team—a task he was only too happy to do. “At Hobart and William Smith, I intended to start very slowly, but the team took off quickly,” remembers Barnes. “I couldn’t hold back many of my students, and they had some great early successes.” During the 2005-2006 academic year, the HWS Debate Team attended the World Championships in Dublin, Ireland, and since have met more debaters and coaches from around the world. For the past two years, the HWS Debate Team has hosted an annual invitation-only, international round-robin tournament, in which 16 teams compete in a British Parliamentary style debate. This style consists of four teams in each debate, with two speakers on each team. The HWS tournament already draws such schools as Harvard University, University of Alaska, Yale University, Oxford University. “We are hoping that this event might one day become one of the most prestigious debate events in the world,” says Noel Selegzi, the board president of IDEA-USA, who hopes that the HWS tournament becomes something that teams will eagerly try to qualify for. Recent successes for the HWS Debate Team include a victory at the RIT invitational debate tournament, with first place finishes from David Hernandez ‘09 and Tim Robbins ‘11. Hernandez and Dan Thorson ’09 competed in the U.S. Universities Debating championship in Portland, Oregon, where they debated in six preliminary debate rounds, qualifying for the quarter-final elimination round. Advancing as far as the semi-finals against some of the nation’s strongest competition, the two showed some of the team’s best debating and accomplishment to date.