Edmonton—On 22 Nov, it happened! The club formed and is strong.

In early November, I picked a date and venue and then crossed my fingers. I had to promote the club much more intensely than I first thought. It was hard to get my message to my target audience, which I know because the founding members admitted that they were instantly hooked on the idea of the club, but only after they had haphazardly stumbled across an ad for it. Again, no club like this currently exists in Alberta.

The inaugural meeting was fun and established a great foundation for future events. The numbers were smaller than I hoped, and I received a few disappointing last-minute cancellations, but it turned out great, nonetheless.

In the interest of being free to explore all sides of the arguments, we decided to have a cone of silence around our discussions with no video recording allowed. Members are expected to make convincing arguments on all sides of the spectrum. The intent is to fully appreciate every aspect of a debate proposition in order to become empathetic and sympathetic to all points of view. We do not want to be quoted in this venue, as this is professional development and we want to grow as individuals, without being fearful of offending someone. Complete freedom of speech is welcomed, no matter how controversial. So far, I have limited the scope of propositions to local municipal issues – how can those be controversial, right?

As human beings, we need to be passionate about our points of view, but we also need to understand what our fellow humans think. It is possible for one’s opinion to be changed by exposure to new ideas. I will never discount the importance of being exposed to new ideas. The winner of the debate makes the most compelling arguments. Simple.

I kicked off the meeting with an exploration of resources that I found on the Internet about proper debate procedures. I then used two great YouTube videos that showed amazing kids debating or critiquing a debate. I summarized the video content by stating my jealousy that I had not been involved in a middle-school debate club. I think that formal debate should be part of every child’s curriculum.

We then proceeded into our first foray of official debating by tackling the proposition: Be it resolved that the new downtown arena will revitalize downtown. We defined the question within the scope of the City of Edmonton’s $300,000,000+ taxpayer contribution to the project, and if that money could’ve been more effectively directed to different initiatives to revitalize downtown, with money to spare.

Arguments in favour noted the recent massive private-sector investment in downtown as proof of the effect of the City’s spending. Arguments against pointed to the inconvenience of getting into downtown for an event, and the fact that only a few bars will benefit. Who wants to go for a drink so late on a week night, after a game—seriously? And why is it a social good to encourage drinking—which is really what the City keeps talking about with reference to “new bars and restaurants” opening? Also, why was there never any real revitalization in the neighbourhoods around Rexall Place or Commonwealth Stadium? Is the revitalization of downtown really just crony capitalism sponsored by the City?

But you can’t deny that downtown is currently changing before our eyes, and it is much livelier today than it ever was. As it was the first debate, we did not judge a winner. Next time it will be more adversarial.

To sum up the club: we talk issues; we talk policy; and we talk about the infrastructure that affects our lives. We have something good going and there is still an opportunity for you to join. Sign up. Talk to us. Debate us. Be prepared to be challenged. Visit the website or email debate@JonDziadyk.com if you are interested in joining. After attending a meeting, you will be invited to join our Facebook group, where we will post additional meet-up locations and times, and members can propose debate propositions.

  J.D.     #muniYEGdebate

 

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If you liked this, please consider reading one of my novels. I write on a variety of topics. The broad themes of my fiction include individualism versus collective thought, and the importance of culture and identity in society. I sometimes use humour as a tool. I sometimes use pity. Sit back, click, and enjoy.