Monday, May 25, 2009
The International Debate Academy is a training program for college and university students who are interested in the arts and skills of debating. It takes place in Slovenia each November and has been held for six consecutive years. This November it will hold its seventh session.
The program is sponsored by Za in Proti, the national debate program of Slovenia directed by Bojana Skrt, and the World Debate Institute of the University of Vermont in the USA directed by Alfred Snider. Skrt directs the program and Snider is the director of training.
The program was originated because there was a high level of interest in debating in Europe, especially in the former communist nations, but very little expertise for training. There were no university faculty members who specialized in speech communication, argumentation and debate, and so students were basically on their own in terms of training. The idea was to create a low-cost one-week program for these students and to try and attract the best possible trainers from other countries, especially those with a more established debate tradition.
All except for two years the program has been held in Ormoz, a small town in eastern Slovenia. It has a good rail connection and the Hotel Ormoz (two star) has been willing to rent out its entire space for the dormitories, classrooms and practice space required. Hotel Ormoz now as additional housing nearby. Hotel Ormoz serves three adequate meals a day to all attendees.
The program has attracted some of the finest trainers from around the world, from places like the USA, UK, Australia, Singapore, Germany and many other nations. The presidents of the World Debate Council and the European Debate Council have been faculty. Former British and American champions have trained here. The program has also been used to prepare a new generation of trainers from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Former students, who have become European champions, have returned to serve as trainers. Trainers have included professors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and public officials.
It is important to remember that IDAS trainers are never paid, their travel expenses are never covered and all they receive is room and board while at the academy. They do it because they love the program and they are dedicated to debating.
The program consists of five full days of training followed by a three-day tournament. Training lasts from breakfast until after a late dinner, and involves lectures, drills, exercises, elective courses and two full practice debates each day. After these training days the entire contingent boards buses and heads to a university campus or a full tournament of three days, with housing in high school dormitories.
During its history IDAS has had attendees from many nations, including:
The evaluations of the program have been universally positive. Students have treasured the opportunity to work with so many notable international debate experts. They have gone on to achieve remarkable competitive success in heir own countries and internationally. More importantly, many of them have returned to their homes to become important, dynamic and successful leaders in creating larger and more diverse debate communities of their own. Ultimately, the goal of the academy is to bring debate and its inherent civic engagement potentials to broader populations. Whether on looks at this standard or the standard of competitive success, the academy has been a success. As the years go by even more and more will be seen from the academy graduates. The best from them still lies in the future.