Debate One: Tokai University
Greetings! Yesterday was our first debate in Japan. We were picked up at our hotel by Mr. Isao Ayabe (the organizer of the tour) and took the subway to Shinjuku, where we met up with Mr. Kanke (who actually got a MA from Wake Forest University). Both Mr. Ayabe and Mr. Kanke are now professors at Tokai University.
We arrived at the Tokai University campus just in time for our debate against Mr. Ayabe and Mr. Kanke. Leah and I were affirmative on the immigration topic, and had a great time. The debate format was very short (5 minute constructives, 3 minute rebuttal, only 2 cross-examinations). It was incredibly interesting for us to see the Japanese debate style in action. Because the audience for the debate was a combination of english teachers who had never seen a debate before and competitive Japanese debaters, feedback on the debate was mixed. Everyone I talked to was impressed by the debate, but I had teachers tell me we were talking too fast, and students say that we were not talking fast enough. We felt that we were speaking very slowly, but then again I cannot even imagine what it would be like to debate in a second language. One of our biggest challenges as we move to different locations on the tour will be to try to adapt to our audience.
We also noticed that the debaters were quite surprised by some of the arguments we made in the debate. For example, one of our advantages is Japanese economy, where we argued that the labor shortage would cause economic collapse for Japan, which will spill over to the world economy, and that ends in war (Beardon card). This argument received lots of giggles during the debate, because usually when Japanese debaters make an economy argument, they argue that economic decline ends in suicide as their terminal impact. Only the debaters who really follow US policy debate expected us to make that argument (there are some Japanese that are NDT trivia lovers-- one of the coaches from Sophia University was even wearing a Walter Russell Mead shirt with the famous card printed on the back!).
After our demonstration debate, Kevin gave his lecture on Argument in a Civil Civic Society. The lecture seemed to go over quite well, and his jokes got many laughs once the audience felt more comfortable. The question and answer period was fascinating-- particularly one question from the audience: "if Gore won the debate in 2000, and Kerry won the debate in 2004, why didn't they get elected President?". After Kevin's lecture, we listened to a presentation on debate curriculums in high school programs in Japan as a tool for learning english. We watched a video that showed how the english language teachers approached debate in the classroom, and got to see the student`s incredible progress over time. My favorite part of the video was the testimonials by students at the end of the video, which included some of the most persuasive and ringing endorsements of the activity that I have heard.
At the end of the symposium we exchanged gifts with our hosts and moved to another location on campus for the party. We spent several hours mingling with debaters and teachers, complete with drinks and a huge food spread.
That sums up our first debate! As I mentioned, we had a great time, and are really looking forward to our future debates.