Democracy and participation, Civic education

Youth debate program in Moravia

Strengthening of the high school debate program in Moravia

Creators

Who is behind this?

Václav Soukup

Czech Debate Association

https://debatovani.cz

Czech Republic

Idea

Idea pitch

The project solves the formal education system's lack of focus on critical thinking, media literacy, and active citizenship. It aims to disseminate the debate methodology in Moravian schools Moravia (east Czechia), because the competitive debate develops the critical thinking skills and democratic values of its participants as proven by several studies. The project will introduce tournaments and trainings in the region as well as methodological support for new and existing debate clubs.

Where will your project idea take place?

Moravia, east Czechia

What is the local challenge?

The support of the extremist and populist political parties among young people in Czechia’s peripheries keeps growing as the Student Elections and other polls suggest. Moreover, the Behavio’s research has proven that they tend to distrust the democratic institutions including the elections itself.
It is caused by the the lack of knowledge of the democratic processes and possibilities of the civic engagement. The secondary reason is the ever growing amount of information spread by both the traditional and alternative media as well as the social networks. (Up to 80 % of Czech high school students struggles to distinguish between trustworthy and fake news.) The formal education system’s lack of focus on the critical thinking and media literacy is the common cause of both of these issues.

How does your idea strengthen democracy and active citizenship at a local and community level?

Participation in the debate program strongly develops the critical thinking skills and civic engagement as proven by the Untangling Debate by Anja Šerc. Similar results including the increased support of the democratic values among debaters were shown in the study executed by 8 european debate organizations including the Czech Debate Association (https://journals.muni.cz/socialni_studia/article/view/11461). According to our experience, we claim the participants and alumni of the debate program share their values among their peer groups and families.
The competitive debate is a “duel” in argumentation and rhetorics. Two teams of 3 students are trying to convince the judge that their argumentation supporting a controversial motion is better than their opponents’.

Who are you doing it for?

The main beneficiaries of this project are the participants of the debate program, they split into 2 groups:
1) The debaters are Moravian high school students and we plan to reach up to 300 of them directly throughout the project. They will actively participate in the debates during the tournaments, moreover they will undergo the long term preparation in their regular debate club meetings. Thus, they will develop their critical thinking skills and civic competences as explained above.
2) The trainers and judges are teachers and university students who will coach the debate clubs and thus spread the debate methodology. We plan to organize trainings for about 50 of them to improve their teaching skills and their knowledge of the methodology.

How do you plan to get there?

The project will start with a preparatory phase during Nov-Dec 2020, when the project coordinator and methodologist will start creating the list of schools in the region, contacting them and offering the trainings. In Jan, the first trainings for students and teachers will be held (a weekend event). Meanwhile, part of the new debate clubs should be established and the project methodologist will visit them to support the trainers. During the first half of the year, two tournaments will be organised (Mar and May).
Similar approach will be implemented after the summer break: training in September and debate tournaments in November and December. The project coordinator will continue approaching schools and prospective teachers in order to found new debate clubs.

What are the expected results?

The goals of this project project are very straightforward - to increase the number of participants of the debate program in Moravia. Specifically to reach 300 high school students and 50 teachers or university students. At the same time we will try to increase the number of active debate clubs to 20 in order to ensure the sustainability of the project.
To demonstrate the impact of the project and debating as a whole, we will ask the participants to undergo European Values Survey. They will be sitting this test during their first debate training and then once again 10 months later during a tournament. Comparing the results should prove the development achieved by their participation in the debate program.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

As mentioned above, the participation in the competitive debating education increases the critical thinking skills, media literacy and appreciation of the democratic values. Moreover, the participants tend to share these skills with their peers and family as well. Thus spreading the debate methodology among hundreds of new high school students who wouldn’t be able to learn it otherwise. As these students will become eligible voters soon, promoting democracy and teaching them to distinguish populism and extremism will help cast their ballots responsibly. Such a change will not be only beneficial for the region but for Europe as well.

What is your story?

The Czech Debate Association organizes the high school debate program for more than 20 years and strives to spread to as many cities and schools around the country as possible. At this stage of its existence, it is at the beginning of a new development phase when the current voluntary basis won’t be sufficient any more. As the experience from other countries (such as Slovakia, Croatia or Estonia) suggest, professionalization of the organization’s management leads to an unprecedented improvement of its reach and level of services. This project thus may start the new era of the Czech Debate Association with professional leadership coordination the debate program development in Moravia.

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 42000,-

Total budget

Major expenses

personnel costs 20 000 EUR
travel costs 2 400 EUR
debate tournaments and trainings (accommodation and meals costs) 19 600 EUR

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We would really appreciate some feedback on the clarity of our project. As we know, debating is not an activity much known to the general public and thus explaining it's benefits on such a short range is always challenging.

Team

vaclav.soukup

Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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