|According to you, Miha, how did the pandemic affect the debate?|
As a debate educator I was glad to see that debate was one of the few extra – and – cross – curricular activities which did not only “survive” during the pandemic but has also gained many new participants and programs. This was possible since debate truly is a unique approach that enable educators to keep and even increase the interactivity in the online teaching environment and this was truly needed when education has moved online. Second important observation is the accessibility of debate programs during the pandemics – international online debate events (competitions and trainings) became much more diverse and inclusive – many more participants with fewer opportunities were able to participate since the financial entry barrier for online events was much lower as there were no costs connected to the travels and accommodation. This has created truly internationally diverse platforms to enhance ideas between young people from different parts of the world but has also crucially affected the fairness and equity in purely competitive events. Teams from poorer economic and geographically peripheral backgrounds did not only get the chance to take part in the events, but have also – with the development of online platforms – gained access to good coaches and teachers. This has translated into two important impacts: firstly – now we can observe “new teams” winning the competitions that have previously never been able to compete with programs from central areas equipped with good teaching personnel, and secondly – the overall quality of debating is much higher because teams are now able to compete and practice much more with debaters from all around the world. We have also witnessed the rise of new debate programs and events. This is great, but here one need to be careful here – with so many options possible, the quality control and decisions about which event one should participate in are both much harder.
Will the online Debate survive even with the return to face-to-face activities?
There is no question online debate will survive even when most of the education will return to mostly face-to-face activities. There are three main reasons for that: 1) online debate has simply offered so many benefits and programs will try to further build on these, 2) many new programs and events were established in online environment during the pandemic and consider themselves as “online only” programs and events, and lastly 3) many well-established and old debate programs are trying to be prepared for the possibility of similar critical events in the future, so they will keep the continuity of online activities. After all, many of the debate events have already explicitly announced they are for sure happening online again in 2021/2022 academic year. All this means that the crucial question for debate educators is not whether online debate will survive, but rather how to further develop it and how to make it complementary to the face-to-face activities in the future. At this point the main considerations should include: 1) the question of synchronising online and face to face activities schedule, 2) possibilities of hybrid events, 3) using online features to further enhance face to face events (especially in terms of accessibility) and 4) quality control of online events and programs
How do you see the future of the debate?
The biggest challenge for debate methodology in future is the question of quality implementation. If debate is not implemented correctly (in terms of proper motions selection for example, quality of feedback for debaters and accessibility of good teaching resources) it might quickly lead to teaching manipulation or promoting arguments based on explicit and implicit bias based on class, gender and race and might therefore lead to radicalisation of society rather than to democratisation and inclusion. To achieve that four main directions should be considered: 1) development and implementation of accessible teachers’ training to achieve sustainability of programs, 2) development and dissemination of quality self-learning guides for debate teachers and students, 3) adapting debate for the purposes of trans-disciplinary learning in different (not only debate) teaching environments and 4) adapting methodology to new global challenges in terms of new forms of education and crucial topics and skills students should gain.