February 8 2011
Daniel Blackman, BSILR '13, Applies His Studies in ILR to Worldwide Issues in Botswana
This winter break I traveled to Botswana to represent Cornell at the World University Debating Championships. World’s is the largest intercollegiate debate tournament, featuring teams from over 40 countries, and one of the largest student events in the world. The event is held in British Parliamentary format and features 4 teams debating in 9 preliminary rounds. The topics center on current events and social issues and are announced just 15 minutes before the start of each debate.
World’s offered me the chance to debate against schools in Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Jamaica, Turkey, England, Australia and Lesotho. In each of these rounds I gained a greater appreciation for the distinct experiences of varying countries and how it shaped the arguments presented. Having always debated against North American teams, facing competitors who had unique historical backgrounds and political views proved an interesting challenge. I was also able to learn about events and issues that rarely get discussed in America. From a Lesotho team I learned of the experience of white settlement in Southern African and from an Australian debater I discovered the challenges in addressing racism towards Aboriginals.
Perhaps most interesting was the chance to interact with these students outside of the competition. Before leaving for Africa, most of my friends predicted that it would be an eye-opening experience. Truth be told, the students I met and interacted with, whether studying in Croatia or Namibia, proved remarkably similar to myself in terms of outlook and their experiences. While diversity was certainly present, it was the underlining similarities that proved most striking.
My debate rounds allowed me to apply what I have been learning at ILR to current and controversial issues. I was even lucky enough to get a topic on teachers unions (for which I knew far more than any of my opponents). So often in a classroom, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. While we learn theories on race and inequality or organizational behavior, it can be challenging to understand how this has real world implications. But each debate round drew new connections between global issues and my classroom studies.
My time in Botswana was not without competitive success either. In addition to the general debate competition, I competed in Public Speaking advancing to the final round and earning for Cornell a 3rd place finish in the world. I am grateful to ILR and the International Programs Office for giving me this wonderful opportunity to travel, meet and compete against students from all over the globe. Getting to escape the Ithaca weather and arguing in the process was an amazing way to spend my winter break.