Leeward Island Debating Competition: an editorial critique

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After three nights of riveting competition, Nevis emerged winner of the Leeward Islands Debating Competition. It was an elimination competition amongst seven territories – Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla, St Marten, St Kitts, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands and host Nevis.

Perhaps the competition could be extended to four days, and be executed in a round robin format in groups of three, with the defending champion entering the fray after the preliminary round, with the best loser joining the winner of each group along with the defending champion for a knock out round.  This would allow morestudents to have greater exposure and a chance to overcome the nerves of facing such a big audience and such learned judges.

It was good to have these debates. There were  no interruptions, no cussing, no name calling, no maligning, no temper tantrums, no jeering laughter and no walk-outs. In other words, it wasn’t the parliaments of any of the islands.  It wasn’t youths behaving badly; rather it was youths at their brilliant best and displaying exemplary behaviour.

The topics assigned were topical but deep. They could have been more Caribbean in nature, but then the students would not have had much material to work with because Caribbean people do not write a lot.  That is one major weakness in our region.  Better structuring of the moot would have given us more even debates.  Some moots were easier to propose or oppose by virtue of their structure.

The researched presentations were excellent, but the rebuttals showed underdeveloped critical thinking skills.   That will come with time, practice and exposure.

The officials took centre stage. We were told too much about the moderators, the judges and the timekeepers, and nothing about the debaters, except for their names.   It would have been good to hear a profile of the debaters, their life aims and aspirations and their achievements to date.  Are all of them post-secondary students who would have already passed CSE’s or its equivalent?  Tell us about them.

The teachers and coaches of these students also should have been given some of the spotlight. Tell us of the people who are moulding our children.

We at the St Kitts-Nevis Observer Newspaper offer congratulations to all who participated; but more so to Team Nevis for their successes.  The future bodes well with these young people.

We hope the politicians were watching!