Student-started effort teaches youth the ancient art of debate

An intellect and debate meeting is pictured in this undated photo. (Photo: Handout from the Intellect & Debate Society)
An intellect and debate meeting is pictured in this undated photo. (Photo: Handout from the Intellect & Debate Society)
AMMAN — “Debate helps you structure your ideas in a perfect way,” Faisal Mubaidien, English debate trainer at the Intellect & Debating Society, said in an interview with Jordan News. اضافة اعلان

Based in Jordan, the Intellect & Debating Society started as an entirely student-led effort at Princess Sumaya University for Technology.

Currently, the group teaches debating skills to youth aged 10 to 17 and is the first Jordanian team to qualify for the World Schools Debating Championship (WSDC).

“The first thing they learn is how to define,” Mubaidien explained.

For example, given a resolution about whether or not employment without a college diploma should be allowed, students are taught to first specify basic terms — like employment and college diploma — without assuming too much knowledge on the part of the judges.

Faisal laid out the Australia-Asia debate format, which comprises a proposition and opposition team of 3 speakers each: The first speaker “sets the scene”, the second speaker refutes the opposition and structures the argument, and the third speaker refutes the opposition without introducing any new ideas and then summarizes.

“These aren’t easy things to do … a lot of times when you structure an argument you take things for granted,” he said.

Mubadien noted that the topic of debate is usually economic, social, or technological, with politics falling under all three of those categories.

He added that debates are never specified to a country or place.

“Debaters can use local examples to make their arguments, but when we have a debate we are in a different world basically … it’s a very isolated situation where we’re not talking about anything specific, we’re just talking about the concept regardless of (where) it’s being applied.”

Beneficial to real life
Faisal believes that debate is especially important for the purposes of acquiring general knowledge and developing both communication and public speaking skills — what he referred to as the three “pillars of debating.”

 “To debate, you need to be able to know a lot about a lot of things … This general information helps a child develop ideas, especially when it comes to economics.”

“We teach them the very basics of economics: the difference between capitalism and communism, how cash flow works in a general society, macroeconomics, and microeconomics,” he continued.

Mubaidien explained that classes typically include a mix of training and competing. 

“We train them to ultimately be able to attend tournaments abroad … Qatar is a very big place for competing. The world championship for Arabic debating is held in Qatar.”

Ultimately, the group hopes to push for the implementation of debate in school curricula across Jordan.

While they currently cater to a specific age group, they have previously trained university students aged 17 to 25. Moving forward, they are looking to expand into the corporate world.

“Corporate training is in the foreseeable future, it’s a very good method of team-building exercises,” Faisal said.

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