The first four days of our camp ended in a debate tournament for the entire camp, and one of my teams took first!
My first place team was made up of Jeris, who is a King’s Academy student, and Britt, a home-schooled student. They won every round they debated, and even when the rounds were paneled with more than one judge, no judge ever voted against them. (In photo: Britt, left, and Jeris receive their first-place award from General Tommy Franks)
The finals round was made up of “celebrity” judges. They included a senator from Jordan, a professor from the King’s academy, Robert Jordan (the former American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia), the debate coach from the University of Texas at Dallas, and one of the leadership speakers from the week. All of them voted for my team, so that was a really exciting way to end the tournament.
The topic was as follows: Should the United States support a comprehensive agreement between Israel and Palestine based on four principles: two sovereign states, whose borders and security are recognized by the countries in the region, economic liberalization, minority right protection and cessation of violence.
The teams have to debate both the affirmative and the negative, and each lab group wrote cases together. My lab’s cases were constructed like this:
On the affirmative, we argued that the United States should condition aid to both Palestine and Israel so that we could basically commandeer them into instating a two-state solution. The agreement would have included the cessation of violence and the default protection of minority rights due to lessened violence and established borders. We would also recommend loosening such things as the blockade and the high tariffs and trade agreements that make Israel and Palestine less economically free than the rest of the world.
On the negative, our counterplan was to pull all aid from the region. The logic behind this was that the money that we are giving the region fuels the violence, and even if we conditioned our aid the powers that be in both Israel and Palestine would not listen to us. We argued that if the Israeli Defense Forces were to give over power to Palestine, Hamas would simply take over like they did in the Gaza Strip, causing more turbulence.
The tournament included three preliminary rounds for each team, and the four teams with the best record went to semis, and the winners of those rounds went to finals. The final round was debated in front of all of the celebrity judges, as well as the entire camp and General Tommy Franks. Needless to say, my team was very nervous when they were sitting up on stage, but after some encouraging words they felt confident and were able to clearly win the round. (In photo: All of the camp participants)
Jeris and Britt were by far my hardest-working lab group, which says a lot because every single one of my teams worked so hard. I don’t think Jeris or Britt ever used any of their free time to do anything but prepare for the tournament, and it paid off. The winners of the tournament were awarded a $2,500 scholarship to the college of their choice.
I am extremely proud of everyone in my lab group, and I couldn’t be happier with the amount that they forced themselves to learn. Debate tests your knowledge on a given subject more than just about any other form of communication. Given that, they had to know the facts and figures they were presented with like the back of their hand, and they did.
Teaching kids in the Middle East about the Middle East Peace Process is an amazing thing. You could tell that the Jordanian students felt so empowered by everything they were learning because now they understood what was going on. American foreign policy, while it does have an impact on the lives of Americans, has more of a direct impact on the people in the areas where we are instating our policies. Because of this, the Jordanian students were much more interested in the implications of what each different plan advocated by different teams would have on their part of the world.
I am so blessed to have had this experience, and it is something I will always remember. I have learned so much from being here, that I’m not sure any international relations class could have taught me anywhere near this much information.