English Debate

On the 24th I was lucky enough to help judge the English Debate Contest for the second time.  Even though I had to wake up painfully early on a Saturday, it was worth it in the end.  Judging English debate can be stressful and draining, but it is also really fun.  For one, it is always amazing to see Japanese students debating in English.  That alone is incredible.  But add to that the fact that I get to see some friends and socialize a bit, and the day is totally worth it.  Not to mention the substitute holiday I’ll get to use towards my upcoming trip to Hiroshima.

This year’s topic was (paraphrased), “Should Japan allow the Japanese Self Defense Force to take part in more UN peacekeeping operations.”  This would mean changing some of the rules restricting the JDF’s use of arms and allowing them to use more proactive tactics rather than purely reactive.

The teams came up with some interesting arguments.  On the pro side there was:

  • Japan would be able to contribute the same amount to the PKOs that other countries do.  This, in turn, would raise Japan’s status a bit and help repay other countries for past support.
  • This could possibly help Japan become a permanent member on the security council.  (Highly unlikely.)
  • Japan can help protect refugees.
  • Japan can provide non-violent support, like the sharing of medical technologies or training (that cannot currently be done by the military under the current laws).

The cons:

  • Money.  Japan doesn’t have it to spare.
  • Young people to be in the military.  Japan doesn’t have it to spare.  A few teams linked serving on violent tours with an increased suicide rate.  They basically said, “We have so few young people.  We can’t risk them killing themselves.”  (Though this is a very serious topic, I would like to mention that a few students referred to the soldiers who had killed themselves as having “suicided.”  I then got to thinking about why we don’t say that.  Then I got lost on an English train of thought and nearly missed what the student said next.)

It is an interesting and complex debate that many Japanese people feel very passionately about.  (See: Japanese politicians brawl in parliament about retaining pacifism.)  It is also an issue that effects some of my students.  At least one of my third years wants to go into the Self Defense Force when he graduates so one of his friends told me how worried she was for him.  Unfortunately, politics are not really discussed at school.  I can completely understand why, but it means that students might not have a place to talk through this issue.  I had a few long discussions about this with my student who won the speech contest.  She also expressed a desire to have more discussions about politics at school.

Regardless, the topic was infinitely more interesting than it was last year.  Last year was about rice subsidies and the TPP.  I also had the honor/burden of helping to judge the finals this year.  It was really stressful, but thankfully it was unanimous in the end.  The team deserved their win and I hope they kick butt at the all Kyushu contest.


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