March 19,1998

Concordia debaters take national French championships conferance
Ils en ont fait du chemin

by Linda Ménard

The trophy for the 1998 French National Debating Championships now shines on the shelf of the Concordia University Debating Society.

Novices Alexandre Girard and Justin Nightingale brought home the cup by defeating, in the final round, a team from last year's winner, the Université de Montreal (U de M). They were one of three teams fielded by the Concordia University Debating Society (CUDS) in the championship, which was held at York University this year.

Garnering interest in debating within the francophone sector has been an uphill battle for the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate.

Most of the 20 competing teams came from English-language universities, ranging from Dalhousie to the University of Western Ontario. The bilingual University of Ottawa and U de M were the only teams which could be construed as coming from French-language universities.

In the final debate, Girard and Nightingale opposed the U de M's proposition for legislation to control the concentration of media ownership. Nightingale said their opponents contended that "if you've got one guy owning all the papers, then all the papers will say the same thing, so you don't get varied news coverage."

"Our line of argument was that it was in the best interests of the shareholders to have a plurality of opinion in their newspapers," Girard said. He argued that offering a variety of opinions maximizes circulation, which in turn increases revenue for shareholders.

Girard credited good teamwork for the win. "We worked pretty hard together in order to win that championship. We practised a lot. We have good interaction - one of us just needs one word to understand the idea of the other."

"We debated together at the Commerce Games," Nightingale added. "I debated in English, and Alexandre debated in French." Nightingale is the newly-elected vice-president of CUDS, and won the title of best public speaker.

As the competitive debating season ends, the novices are already gearing up for next year. Girard is running for the post of French tournament director, and CUDS may host next year's national championship in addition to its annual Counihan Cup. Students are welcome to join anytime. CUDS meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the School of Graduate Studies building, 2145 Mackay St.

For more information, check out the Web site at:
Fighting words from a disappointed debater

Excerpt from an article signed Greg Neimen, which appeared in the Red Deer (Alberta) Advocate on January 7.

Canada was not considered a world power going into the 18th Annual World Universities Debating Championships, which closed in Athens on Tuesday [January 5]. Among the 350 teams from 40 countries in the world drawn to the debating tournament, Canada is considered first-round fodder, because in Canada the interchange of ideas through debate is not generally considered a serious enterprise. Canadian debaters exchanged barbs with students from countries like Australia, where rhetoric and debating skills are formally taught at high schools and universities. "The quality of debate and the expectations are much higher in Australia than they are here," says Avery Plaw, 29, a doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal and a former star debater who coaches Concordia University's debating team.

"They have a much more vibrant discursive tradition than we do. We have no expectation that there would be substantial debate on any issue."

Oratory skill and achievement should be no less prized than athletic skill. If the level of debate in Parliament could be raised to something above hooting and bellowing, perhaps skills of rhetoric would be more prized in society in general.

Copyright 1998 Thursday Report
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