Debate promotes a cultural exchange

by Rebekah Bresee

For the first time, the award-winning Whitworth forensics team hosted the national debate champions of Ireland in an international debate exhibition Tuesday, April 2.

The Friends of the Irish Debate Series was formed by Professor Gary Holbrook of Metropolitan State College in 1983 to sponsor an annual debate tour of U.S. universities for the winning team and individual speakers of Ireland.

“For 40 years, Irish debate teams have traveled to different locations in the U.S. to showcase a debate exhibition,” director of forensics Mike Ingram said.

Before arriving in Spokane, the debate team had already visited schools in Denver, Colo., Sacramento, Calif., Helena, Mont. and Portland, Ore.

A frequent stop on the Irish Tour of America is Carroll College in Helena, where one of Ingram’s friends is a staff member.

Ingram said his friend helped connect Ingram with the Irish debate team so he could suggest Whitworth as one of the tour stops. The team obliged.

“The event promotes cross-cultural friendships, displays different styles of debate and provides an opportunity to learn,” Ingram said.

The teams consisted of three members who each presented a seven minute speech to support their position.

Representing Whitworth in the debate were freshman Hannah Tweet, sophomore Jonathan Kim and sophomore Samuel Director.

“Coach Mike picked the three of us and asked if we would do this debate,” Kim said.

From Ireland, the individual national debate champion Kate Brady joined the national debate team champions Liam Brophy and John Engle.

Brady, Brophy and Engle travel to high schools and universities throughout the U.S. to present workshops and engage in debate exhibitions.

This competition is unique because it represents and blends the debating styles of two countries.

“They [the Irish champions] came to our class beforehand and talked about their style of debate,” Tweet said.

Tweet said the Whitworth forensics team presented their style of debate and the Irish shared their style and perspectives on debate as well as American culture.

“It was a very interesting cultural exchange,” Director said. “Their style is different and we had to adapt to that.”

Director said the style of the debate was more relaxed in comparison to other debates.

In this debate, there was not as much response to the opposition. It consisted more of presenting positions and less of addressing the arguments.

“This debate was unique because it was in front of an audience and we are used to debating in front of a judge or just a small group of people,” Tweet said.

In addition to these changes, the teams were given two weeks to prepare their arguments whereas only 30 minutes of preparation time is allowed for a regular debate.

The resolve of this debate was: “Education in the liberal arts is still important.”

The Whitworth debate team’s stance was in the affirmative while the Irish team argued against.

“I think it was important that the topic was relevant to college students,” Tweet said.

The Whitworth forensics team argued that a liberal arts education better equips students to adapt to different career fields because it encourages them to engage in courses outside their intended major and develops critical thinking.

To refute this position, the Irish champions claimed an education in the liberal arts is a waste of time and money because it does not allow the student to deeply engage in their chosen field and ill-equips them for the competition in the economic world.

“I am very pleased with how the debate went,” Ingram said. “People ought to hear a variety of ideas and perspectives.”

Though each side presented solid arguments with complete evidence and support of their positions, the debate was more of an exhibition than an actual competition.

“It was nice to have a civil debate and to hang out with them afterwards,” Director said. “I think it was a beneficial experience for everyone.”

The Irish champions’ debate tour continues as they travel to Seattle and Miami before returning to Ireland.

Contact Rebekah Bresee at rbresee16@my.whitworth.edu

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