Machines v. Humans – Debate!

August 1, 2013

The topic of debate and the various benefits of engaging publicly in English exchanges around interesting issues has been a common theme around Agahozo-Shalom in recent weeks. The argument that has been put forth (by staff and students alike!) is that providing opportunities for students to be challenged in ways that require them to think and speak critically in order to be understood is a valuable way to learn. It has also been noted that the pressure to perform and articulate oneself well is magnified when a level of competition is introduced.  Much of the discussion as of late has centered on the initiatives of one student in particular who has taken it upon himself to drive the enthusiasm, encourage his peers and organize several Village-wide debates around challenging topics. His name is Fred and last week he organized what was arguably one of the best events the Village has ever experienced. 

The topic was: capital-intensive technology is better than labor-intensive technology – in other words, big, expensive machines are better than the hands and physical exertion of people. The entire student body showed up in the amphitheater to watch the debate commence. This particular debate was between representatives from Senior 5 (11th grade) and Senior 6 (12th grade).  The entire student body was engaged and enthusiastic, and occasional heckling could be heard, and the intensity could be felt.   Each individual in attendance had apreferred victor for this intense inter-grade competition. 

While introducing the debate, one of the MC’s, Pacifique from Senior 6, stated, “Debate is important because it helps you to alleviate your fear of speaking in front of people and forming ideas.” 

For two hours the opposers and proposers went back and forth, making solid arguments about the value of machines versus the value of human labor. “I can’t help but ask myself, is it possible to have a machine be the Village Director at ASYV?” one student stated sarcastically to egg on his opponent. “I praise God for putting me on this stage and giving me the opportunity to teach you people,” another answered sending the crowd into wild applause, hisses and chants. 

The debate was judged by a panel of staff members from all corners of the Village who gauged the discussion based on clarity of argument, the quality of the points that were made, how well students articulated themselves and more. 

After three intense rounds, mediated by four panelists, the time came to announce the winner. Fred, the event organizer took the stage and with grave seriousness he read through the merits of each team. “I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the Village for supporting this initiative,” Fred stated as he prepared to make the final declaration of the winner. He acknowledged the judges and specifically thanked the student body for being so enthusiastic about the idea of bringing debate to ASYV in a serious way. 

In the end, Senior 6 took home the first place prize and each member of their team left the competition with a new shirt that read, “ASYV Debate Pioneers”. As the amphitheater cleared out, Senior 6 students stormed the stage and launched a full-fledged dance party in celebration. 

Fred (pictured at the top of this post) has been truly instrumental in enhancing the culture of debate at ASYV, and the student body as a whole is clearly ready with open arms to embrace it. 

Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grieff