Success in international competition over the past year motivated the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and The University of Mississippi Forensics Team to share Worlds Style Debate at the inaugural Southern Debate Institute this past weekend.
Alfred Snider, internationally recognized coach and Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics at the University of Vermont, directed the Institute with the assistance of Ken Newby, assistant professor of communication and director of speech and debate at Morehouse College.
Students from Ole Miss, Louisiana Technical College, Morehouse College and the University of Southern Mississippi came together to learn Worlds Debate, the fastest growing style of debate globally.
Modeled after the proceedings of British parliament, Worlds style is notably accessible to the public in the assessment of Snider.
“It has a very low entry barrier but a very high ceiling, and by that I mean that it is very easy to do for the first time, but if you want to be really good it is quite challenging, “ Snider said. “Thus, it is available for almost all students and it is a good vehicle for imparting debate and public communication skill to a large segment of the population. It also provides opportunities to debate against the entire world as major universities from all continents participate and over 800 have been listed in a few global directories.
“It is revolutionary because it is sweeping the globe,” Snider said. “It is the way the world debates. It uses natural language argument, avoiding the jargon and technicalities that so often fill American debate formats, while targeting the intelligent citizen, not the expert.”
Competitors are rewarded for clarity of thought and communication and are expected to be prepared to argue a variety of topics.
“Worlds covers a wide range of topics from all areas of human interest because every debate had a different topic,” Snider said. “It is also designed to teach consensus as well as competition, and that is a skill we all need more of.”
Worlds Debates are structured to involve four teams made up of two debaters, with the affirmative and negative sides being represented by teams from different schools.
JoAnn Edwards, director of forensics at Ole Miss, became interested in the event as a communicative outlet rather than technical debate and has followed the event throughout its spread into the United States.
“You win in Worlds not on technicality, but through persuasion,” Edwards said. “It is not a win at all costs, as the rankings of 1-4 reward good thinking and good talking alike.
“Worlds debate forces the individual to take an opinion and turn it into an argument. This process allows opinions to be refined and become much stronger positions to take in the world.”
Snider echoed Edwards’ belief in the importance of communication through debate.
“Study after study shows that communication skills are an essential attribute for leadership,” Snider said. “In business, oral communication skills are rated as the number one way to get promoted. In everyday life people attribute leadership qualities to those who communicate often, communicate well and have a balance of positive and negative things to say.”
Edwards said with these goals in mind, the pair coordinated the Institute to cultivate healthy competition in the Southeast.
“Of course every team in the nation, and world, deals with financial restraint,” Edwards said. “You choose either to go to tournaments or to host. We saw the need to encourage the spread of Worlds in the southeast and accomplished both the goals of teaching the format and competing in hosting the Southern Debate Institute.”
Members of the university’s forensics team will host a high school tournament later in the month and encourage those who may be interested in learning more about the activity to consider volunteering the weekend of Sept. 27-28.