“Gestational surrogacy? What’s that?” would be the first reaction from many students. That is the topic high school students are debating in English this year (Cf. HEnDA, All Japan High School English Debate Association; NAFA, National Association of Forensics and Argumentation). At Kyushu University Ito Campus, in a unique “Exchange Debate Contest” in its 20th anniversary tournament, twelve teams from high schools and universities gathered to debate the same topic “Resolved: that the Japanese government should legalize gestational surrogacy” in two preliminary rounds, once on the affirmative and once on the negative; switching sides is a customary educational practice in academic or educational debate.
Kurume High School A (Hirakawa Hinata, Sakamoto Manami, Nagamatsu Miu, and Hori Hino) winning the two rounds with the top speaker point scores and another two-win team with the second best speaker points, Kyushu University C (Ayukawa Yuichiro, Takeda Nana, Ohira Sayaka) were called upon at the final round in front of some one hundred-member audience in Center Zone Classroom 2308, judged by four expert panel of Catherine Matsuo (Fukuoka University), Hirofumi Kamada (JDA-Kyushu/Fukuoka Debating Society), Fujio Shirasawa (Kyushu Gakuin High School) and Tatsuya Kaji (Fukuoka Debating Society) casting four ballots with the other one from the audience vote. Three judges from Kyushu University (Professors Aaron Hahn and Shaun O’Dwyer as well as Emeritus Professor Narahiko Inoue) and the one from Kurume High School (Ms. Yasuko Matsuda) were excluded from the final round judging panel to avoid any conflict of interests.
With the coin toss, Kyushu University C was assigned the affirmative side and Kurume A, the negative. Kyushu’s Ayukawa opened the debate with his affirmative constructive speech arguing that the legalization of gestational surrogacy would help improve Japan’s birthrate and provide safer surrogacy services in Japan, citing evidence from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and an article found in a law journal. After the cross-examination, Kurume’s negative constructive speaker presented two-well documented disadvantages of legalization, commodification of female body and risks to born children. The debate continued with rebuttal and summary speeches from both sides. The four judges voted for the affirmative while the audience vote went for the negative, leading to the 4-1 victory for Kyushu University C. Takeda Nana (Kyushu C) was awarded the best debater prize based on the expert judges’ majority decision.
Ms. Takeda, who was named the Best Debater, had this message about her experience:
“I learned a lot from participating in the debate tournament. At first, my participation in the tournament was decided in the course, but as I actually prepared for it, I realized that it was a more in-depth and difficult task than I had imagined, including collecting data on surrogacy that I had never known before, filling in the gaps in our team's arguments, and practicing how to develop arguments with our opponents in mind, but at the same time, it was an interesting activity. On the day of the competition, I was surprised by the advanced argumentation of the opposing teams and learned a lot from them, but I feel that I was able to enjoy the competition to the fullest. I believe that learning English and presentation skills through the very important topic of "pros and cons of surrogacy" will surely be a good experience for me to deepen my own learning in the future. Thank you very much for this valuable opportunity.”
High school teams will continue to do research and practice debating to hope for their success in subsequent local and national tournaments this year; they will be benefited from exchanged ideas through debating and feedback from judges after the round and in the informal party at the end of the tournament. Kyushu University’s four teams are all from Emeritus Professor Inoue’s KIKAN Education “Production 1/2” course, in which they are learning academic writing and presentation in English. He had this to say after the tournament:
“They are all first-year medical school students and all fifteen students, including a few who could not come to the tournament, conducted extensive research about the topic and wrote speeches and refutation briefs. Academic Debate is much like academic writing/presentation with additional elements of competition for their motivation to excel. Although none of the students have previous competitive debating experience, they’ve got interested in debating and agreed to participate in the Saturday debate contest instead of giving regular oral presentations at the end of the course. The students are intensively practicing speaking in another KIKAN English course, which apparently helped them in the Cross-Examination. Their first practice rounds went well yesterday, surprising a guest judge Sora Nishimura, 4th year from the School of Interdisciplinary Science and Innovation, who has been debating in high school (Kasumigaoka) and college (Kyushu University ESS), with their well-structured arguments and persuasive speeches.”
The Contest was closed with the chief judge Professor Matsuo’s comments and the award ceremony, followed by a snack party in which high school students, college students, and the judges talked about debating and other things.
The contest staff and judges hope that the students have learned arguments for and against the legalization of gestational surrogacy in the Japanese and international contexts from researched sources and their criticism from other sources and debaters. Switch-side debates are challenging but fun like sports and also help students to make their own reasoned decision about important questions. Making a decision based on research is better than the one without evidence, a decision with arguments and evidence tested by debate is even better than the one with the arguments from one side or without critical testing.
For more info about debating activities at Kyushu University, contact:
The FLC Debate Education Support Group (email@example.com)