The New York Times by Levone


									                                      The New York Times
                        August 9, 2001, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
                  SECTION: Section A; Page 18; Column 1; National Desk
                                      LENGTH: 1045 words
              HEADLINE: World of Debating Grows, and Vermont Is Its Lab
                               BYLINE: By JODI WILGOREN
                           DATELINE: BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 7
Darong Kwon came to the University of Vermont this summer to learn how to speak. There is
nothing wrong with Ms. Kwon's voice: she has been talking since she was a toddler, and picked
up English as a child when her family lived in Australia. Now 19, she traveled 6,642 miles from
her home in Seoul to the World Debate Institute here to learn how to speak up, speak out, speak
her mind.

"In Korea, I find it hard to express my opinion so people can understand me, said Ms. Kwon, a
freshman communications major at Kyung Hee University. "In Korea, they tell us to be creative,
to argue, but they don't let us do it. Here, we practice." Ms. Kwon was among two dozen students
and professors from South Korea, Chile, China, Serbia and Uzbekistan stumbling over new
vocabulary words today as they argued about whether economic growth should be sacrificed for
the environment, whether the Olympic Games should be abolished and whether a woman's place
is in the home.

The 18-year-old debate institute, here on the bucolic Burlington campus, has been nicknamed
"boot camp for the brain," but for the growing number of students from restrictive cultures, the
two-week course is an eye- -- and throat- -- opening experiment in free speech and democracy.

While competitive debate has been experiencing a renaissance in American colleges and rapidly
expanding in urban high schools, it has exploded overseas in recent years, particularly in
emerging democracies. Founded in 1994, the International Debate Education Association, or
IDEA, has native-language debating clubs serving 70,000 students in 31 countries from Albania
to Mongolia.

Far beyond an esoteric academic exercise, debate is seen in many of these countries as a tool to
opening up society, a way in which the next generation learns to question authority and engage
in rigorous discussion of complex topics.

"To go in and say, 'You don't have a democratic society, you need one,' people say, 'Don't tell us
that'; if you go in and say, 'We've got this activity that kids love,' they listen," Noel Selegzi,
IDEA's executive director, said in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg, Russia, where 300
people from 35 countries just finished a two-week debate camp.

"We don't care that the kids have debate societies for the rest of their lives," Mr. Selegzi added.
"What we do care about is that they're used to thinking critically, they learn to analyze what
they're hearing, not just take it for granted, they learn to research positions."
In Vermont, the students have English-language seminars on constructing and tearing apart
cases, on preparing evidence, on employing rhetorical flourishes and even on heckling and
disrupting their opponents with points of information. One afternoon a professor drew a
chalkboard diagram of a person suffering under a very hot sun, eager to turn on a fan, which
threatened to knock a big rock onto another person's head. To oppose the argument for turning
on the fan, he suggested, a debater could offer an alternative solution, like cooling down by using
the shade from the big rock.
Each morning the novices, clutching Ben & Jerry's tumblers, face off in practice debate rounds,
complete with judges and critiques.

"Stand up and tell me a story," Tomislav Kargacin, a high school English teacher from Novi Sad,
Serbia, told Ms. Kwon. "You don't need those papers. If you read, I think you do not understand
what you say."

Chi Hyoung Kim, a 27-year-old journalism major, who in December won South Korea's
first-ever national debate tournament -- and a trip to the Vermont institute -- struggled this
morning through a simple speech in broken English. Mr. Kargacin told him to try it in his native

"You are a very powerful speaker in Korean," Mr. Kargacin said, though he did not understand a
word. "Do you have gestures in Korean? Feel free to use them. That gives it impact."

The guru of the institute, and its founder, is Alfred C. Snider, a professor of forensics universally
known as Tuna, a nickname he acquired in a high school debate round about organized crime
because of his resemblance to a Chicago Mafia figure. Professor Snider, who looks like a
scraggly Santa Claus, with a white-gray beard and bright blue eyes, said he had opened the
institute to foreigners because he believed that the rigid educational systems of memorization
and note-taking in which many of them study were "not sufficient for training people for the
global marketplace."

Tuition for the international students is $500 for the two weeks, compared with $850 for
American college students and $950 for high school debaters. While the Americans stay up all
night researching details of policy on Native Americans, or practicing talking so fast that they are
left gasping for air, "in international debating it's much more about personal empowerment,
creating civic virtues," Professor Snider said. "It's people who are saying, 'I like democracy, I
like the sound of it, but how do we do it?' "

Rodrigo Rojas, a Chilean poet and professor who coordinated the first-ever international
Spanish-language debate tournament this spring, said his country remained hesitant about debate
because of the censorship and retribution that characterized the Pinochet government. Three
Chinese students from Inner Mongolia who arrived late in Burlington because of problems in
getting visas said some topics remained off limits in their homeland. But Mr. Kargacin said the
war back in Serbia had only reignited interest in debate.
"Violence is not an argument; we can treat unsubstantiated claim as violence," he explained.
"Learning how to build arguments is learning how to be part of the community. That goes for the
whole world."

Gyeong-Ho Hur, a professor at Kyung Hee University, came to the Vermont camp last summer,
then played host to 80 teams from 20 universities in December for South Korea's first national
debate tournament. Now he has a new goal: a college debate between North Korea and South

"Governments," he said, "they are not really talking; what about the students? It's going to be a
good starting point. "We have many commonalities. Something we can talk together. Not
something related to politics. Probably we could talk about Japan."

GRAPHIC: Photo: At the World Debate Institute, students take seminars on constructing and
tearing apart cases, on using rhetorical flourishes, even on heckling. (Paul O. Boisvert for The
New York Times)

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