Wageningen Debating will be organizing its first official debating tournament — Wageningen Open — this summer. On Saturday 6 June, 44 teams from the Netherlands and various other European and African countries will join verbal battle.
Until one and a half years ago, Wageningen was the only Dutch student town without a debating society. Wageningen Debating founder Lara Minnaard says the new arrival has had an enthusiastic welcome in the debating world, as she saw during tournaments in other towns. Last December, Minnaard was awarded the first Cicero annual prize by ‘the Dutch Debating Club’.
The organizers hope that this tournament will establish the young society as a fixture on the scene. ‘As a debating society, we want to present our town and university in the best possible light,’ says Shahin Kassabian, one of the organizers. ‘So we will be keeping to a strict schedule, putting on good food and arranging an afterparty in town. The idea is also to get people with little or no experience to participate. For debating is a useful exercise in our modern knowledge society where a lot depends on how well you communicate your ideas and present yourself.’ Minnaard agrees: ‘The tournament is just the right place to develop these skills because you learn by doing and you get feedback after each round.’ Wageningen Debating is offering introductory lessons in the spring for people who are new to debating.
A major theme for Minnaard is to boost proficiency in argumentation, so she is inviting lecturers to take part in the jury and attend the final. ‘If we can convince lecturers of the importance of being skilled in reasoning and presentation, they will pass on that message to their students.’ The debating setup is that of the British Parliament. Four teams of two people each come together to debate various motions. Each team has to convince the jury of the importance of its own arguments and the ridiculousness of the other teams’ arguments. After three preliminary rounds in the Forum, the final, which is open to the public, will be held in the town centre. The organizers prefer not to say where exactly as yet.
Go to www.wageningendebating.com for more information and to register.