Motions: The Topics Discussed at Beihang World Debate Academy

Select links connect to videos of the rounds.

Demonstration Round: This House Would subsidize rural families in china to raise daughters

Practice Rounds:

  1. This House regrets China’s one child policy
  2. This House would promote women higher and faster in employment situations as a matter of government policy.
  3. This House Believes That citizens should not give to beggars.
  4. This House Believes That child abusers should be medically altered so they can not have more Children.
  5. This House Believes That Disney should make an animated motion picture with a gay hero.
  6. This House Believes the exploration and development of outer space should be done by commercial interest regulated by the UN not by governments.
  7. This House Would legalize mutli partner marriage for both men and women.
  8. This House Believes That China should adopt single sex schools


  1. This House Believes That animals have no rights
  2. This House would punish celebrity criminals more harshly.
  3. This House Believes That public money should not be used to finance art.
  4. This House Would have China remove all blocks to Internet websites.
  5. This House Would have China end all economic, military and political support for North Korea, DPRK

Quarterfinal: This House Believes That nationalism is a virtue. (info slide was the definition of virtue)

Semifinal: This House Believes That the state’s strategy of under-valuation of currencies does more harm than good.

Final: This House would tax products and services based on their ecological harms.

In my opinion many of the motions were specific to China. In know this was done on purpose in part to make it easier for students whom are new to debating. However I would have liked to see more motions that could be relevant in China along with many other countries. Many United States tournaments have motions that could be in many countries and usually we simply set them in “Western Liberal Democracies”.

Some people informed me that other tournaments within China had censorship issues when wanting to discuss International Relations Motions, however this tournament did feature some IR motions along with many domestic issues that I was expecting to be banned. In fact to much surprise we were informed that the demonstration debate was broadcast (with tape delay) on CCTV.


Olympic Park Trip Brings Understanding of Hosts

Dinner After Olympic Park

Dinner After Olympic Park

Although going out to dinner with the professor hosting us and most of the other adjudicators was a experience in itself, I also had a few places on my must visit before leaving Beijing list. Jonathan Borock, originally from New York City also, but now teaching and studying in Japan wanted to come along to see the Olympic Park area with me. When we went to tell the professor not to wait for us for dinner at first I said no when she asked if we needed guides, since it was last minute, but she wanted us to have one anyway. This was all part of the excellent treatment we were getting that would help illustrate the importance of this event.

It didn’t take long to get to the park on the subway since the number 10 line was near our hotel and connects to the number 8 line. Once we left the subway platform a map-guide points towards the correct exits depending on which stadium you would like to visit. One of the first viable sites is the Bird’s Nest unique enough to be recognized instantly.  Since the students whom took us offered to hold our bags while we took pictures, we were able to get some good, profile picture material. After seeing the outside of the Bird’s Nest and National Indoor Stadium we moved on to the Water Cube, which we found out was open, so that we could see the inside.

Johathan Borock walks towards the "Birds Nest"

Johathan Borock walks towards the “Birds Nest”

Today the Water Cube serves multiple purposes.  Part of it is indoor water play area with a large pool, television screens and rides. The other half is where the olympic events were held. The swimming and diving area is sometimes used during major events, however most of the time it is simple a photo opportunity, with the Beijing 2008 signs still present.

Inside the Water Cube

Inside the Water Cube

After spending 2 plus hours in the park area it was time to find something to eat, besides snacks, there are only a few options near the park, and McDonald’s seemed just a bit to much like home. We were treated  to the fancier traditional Chinese restaurant that was oddly enough situated underneath the McDonald’s. Jonathan and I were talking about the differences in the groups of students we had so far. It seemed that his groups had more experience (Tuna put the students into three experience level groups and rotated the faculty) and he didn’t seem to be having the problems I was getting the students to talk. One of the students who was with us, reminded me that he was in my group earlier. They were saying that they did not want to interrupt our explanations because they felt that teachers usually want to present there own ideas. Just as I explored in my previous post, we talked about how this is an activity of participation. It should not just be about the teachers ideas instead helping them  to understand and present there own ideas. It would be important for us to make sure everyone understood each other and to leave more space for questions.

Outside the "Bird's Nest"

Outside the “Bird’s Nest”

Encouraging Participation – But What’s the Right Way?

John Sadek, leads a lecture

John Sadek, leads a lecture


(Earlier this month – Workshop Day Two)

Struggling to get the students to speak and not being confident in leading the activity were feelings I did not intend to have a second time. Now that we received the workshop packet and schedule, this seemed less likely to happen. The morning lecture and activity was to be about Motion Analysis so I decided to prepare a bit of my own advice for the students during the activity time.

In the lecture, three different basic types of motions were discussed (along with the example used)

  • about Facts (This House Believes that in the future x policy will be problematic)
  • Policy or “action” (This House Would ban…)
  • Value: (This House Believes that love is better than sex).

The lecture discussed how to approach these types of motions. Afterwords I summarized for the students in my group, trying to make it easier to think of arguments quickly.

  • Motions about facts: In making the model the question of What should be considered, maybe some definitions, but this is not as important as in Policy motions. And the questions of How along with Why need to be taken into account.
  • Policy motions. How this policy is carried out should be answered in the model to ensure the debate does not become about this. Why it is a good idea should then be the focus.
  • Value motions don’t need as much modeling, and again saying why it is a good idea needs to be the focus.

Even with this advice, many of the students seemed shy, but I felt more confident in my teaching. It was also only the second day so I was not as worried.

Later on, however as I spoke to another one of the adjudicators, I realized that my strategy might not be the best. One of the problem was not having enough time. Having two lectures and two practice rounds a day left less than one hour for each of the activities, so that we could conformable eat lunch and not leave at 8:30pm as usually happens at US debate tournaments that are only Saturday and Sunday so that class time is not missed. He felt that point of the activities was to get the students to practice the skills we were teaching. This is something I knew was important and in the spirit of the World Debate Academy, active learning of skills. While I only was taking about 5-10 minutes to add my ideas, this time could be better spent. It was tempted to appear as a confident “well prepared” teacher, perhaps the students would say good things about me and at event like this my profile within debate could improve.

Realizing that is neither fair nor what debate should be about, I decided to change. Debate is about being prepared to respond quickly not being able to come into the classroom as a prepared teacher, ready to control the situation and have students participate in a way that would make the teacher comfortable. Going forward I decided to just introduce the activities and see what the students came up. Keeping in mind what was said in the lecture, and my own ideas that I wanted to present before, this left a little bit more time to provide feedback, in a way that was more relevant and engaging. Perhaps also since it was no longer the first day students were more prepared to present there own ideas and learn from mine in a way that could help all of to improve.

Shy Beginnings

(Earlier this month)

Personal refueling complete, it was time  to figure out how I was going to help. The professor from the university here, Beihang, and I agreed that I would be a judge for the workshop practices and tournament helping to provide feedback. Seeing the schedule I learn that most of the other adjudicators, some of whom I know from my colleges’ debate tournament were also leading lectures and activities to help with debating skills.

After the public speaking lecture, I stood by while Tuna, the University of Vermont professor who is in charge of this and all of the World Debate Academies, assigned us to different rooms. With about five minutes before the students were to arrive, I was able to figure out my task included leading exercise groups.

The public speaking practice was intended to be simple. The booklet included a list of 70 motions. I was to assign each student (about 10 in my group) a motion, have them give a quick speech defending it and give feedback. Similar to an activity at my colleges practice, I was  hoping everyone would be ready to speak. Instead intimidation spread and none of the students I called upon wanted to speak. Some complained that they didn’t know enough about the topics, however for the most part everyone was shy. I knew I had to change my approach when someone asked if the speeches could be self introductions. Reluctantly I agreed, later seeing that was suggested in booklet and it was effective since afterwords everyone gave a speech about a “debate topic”

We finished the afternoon with a second topic related to China – a practice debate for all of the students: This house regrets China’s one child policy.

In my room, side government focused on the impacts of the policy on children and families, saying that it increased pressure on the one allowed child. The also felt it was wrong because it contradicted human nature. The opposition focused on the social and environmental harms of not having this policy saying that there would be more pressure in terms of employment opportunities and that resources would be more limited.

Rural Daughters of China

Vision Hotel                             P1000884

            Student guides met us, all of the adjudicators,  in the lobby of our hotel. We were lucky that our group got bumped out of the first campus hotel booked for us and now were staying The Vision, five stars. Either way the school had planned to treat us well having students serving as guides for us. They led us to one of the main auditoriums for the opening ceremony of speeches, pictures, and a model debate. Over one hundred debaters were here for training and about 12 other adjudicators/teachers most of whom were champions or at least semifinalist in major internationally recognized tournaments. Tuna, who runs the debate academy explained at the opening ceremony, that they were bringing the best, and not those who couldn’t find jobs in the states.

            When our demonstration debate motion was announced I was surprised as seemed that we would be exploring topics of controversy in China, and not just the “safer” motions that some at my college thought we were going to be stuck with:

            This House Would subsidized rural families in China to raise daughters (video).

Eight members of the faculty were selected to present the debate, in the same style that we were going to teaching our students in. This gave the opportunity to demonstrate a quality round that helped everyone to understand the format, figure out what when well, and reflect on ways the arguments could have been more effective.

             Government, the term for teams supporting the motion, presented a case saying that the Government has a responsibility to promote equality. They felt that such a measure would help girls to know that they are valuable to families, even if parents do not see it that way. The opposition countered by saying that the mentality of families against women needed to changing and this would only further serve as objectification. They also said that many families would simply spend the money on the male children, leaving the girls just as bad off as before. Government responded by saying that there plan was worth while, even if only a handful of women directly benefited since they could serve as role models in there communities.

            Next stop was lunch. A simple walk of less than two blocks got our group to the student canteen area for what would be my first taste of real Chinese food. It is true that it differs from Chinese American food, but I don’t think the canteen did a good job. Chicken, duck that looked liked Chicken and rice came at the rock bottom price of 10yuan, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. Seemed a bit greasy and the sauce on the chicken was not something I was used to, but the spot seemed popular and most people share tables randomly since space was hard to find.

Shanghai-Beijing: Jetliner Speed on Rail


In the morning (Aug 8) we set out to eat breakfast, exchange my money, and buy my train ticket. Few travel agents outside of China are allowed to sell train tickets and charge a fee. Since tickets generally only sell out during holidays it was okay to buy them after arrival. I was able to research quite a bit of information about the trains in china from 553 yuan, about 90USD seems a bit pricey still for the fast train but the distance is actually over 1200km and when longer check in procedures are factored in, it’s about the same timing as a flight cheaper than even than best airline deals I could find online. I was surprised to find that they would not access credit cards, so that is something to keep in mind.  After rushing back to grab my bag and getting to the station, I got on the platform with about 10 minutes to spare. Before accessing the departure area bags are quickly scanned, not the intense airport security but it seemed to be a costly measure and slows things a bit.

            The train itself is worth the fanfare the world is giving it. For most of the trip it coasted effortlessly at around 300km per hour according to the overhead signs what were in both Chinese and English. Our seats provide ample leg although I wish they were a bit more comfortable to lounge in, although the more expensive seats looked as though they were. The attendants offered beverages for purchase in carts and after I got off the train I noticed there was a dining car that I somehow missed during my walk through of the train. Surprisingly the train was pretty full for a system that rarely sells out. My only complains are no Wi-Fi, especially since my phone doesn’t work here, and that it took an hour longer than the fastest schedules on this route, because of extra scheduled stops. I also found it odd that the fast trains leave from Hongqiao, the domestic/regional airport area, instead of the city center. To me it would make sense for the trains to leave from the major International Airport, Pudong, and the city center. This way, they could replace short haul domestic flights that people take to connect to and from International flights. It is realistic to think that some going would prefer a train to a short hual flight however trains cannot replace long haul flights.

            As I exited the train I realized how large it was, 16 cars most with 16 rows of seats, five seats per row. This makes a huge platform and the elevator exit was chained off after I rode it upstairs. Beijing South Railway Station itself was simpler to navigate with signs clearly pointing to the subway. The attendant did not speak English and was only apply to sell me a single ticket but the price will never cease to amaze me, only 2yuan. Surprisingly there is a baggage scan here as well, I thought it was because of this was a “major” subway stop, but upon exit near Baihang University I realized that bags are scanned at all entrances. The subway was well lit and stations air conditioned and signs in English. I only got turned around after exiting the train station. After asking a few people who didn’t speak English, finally girl who appeared to be around my age walked me in the direction of my hotel since I was able to point it out on a Google map (I recommend bringing anything that could be used to communicate non verbally)