Yesterday, I watched MTV’s The Debater finals. I was pretty impressed watching it. When I was back in school, debating tournaments were relegated to libraries or small auditoriums. It was the rugby matches and cricket matches that drew the crowds. Debating was for those small groups of intellectuals who could string a few words together coherently (mostly at least). But MTV Sports took it, spiced it up a bit and made it a big event. The final was more like a big match than a genteel verbal sparring, with flags waving and kids yelling and both school bands making a heck of a racket.
The finals were between Lyceum and Ananda College and the standard of the debaters were pretty acceptable. The kids were confident and aggressive and the content was fairly well researched. The topic was on a global body being created to govern the internet, and Ananda was the proposition.
I was fairly surprised to see an international school reaching the finals, because they usually don’t show up in the big events. But Lyceum practically creamed Ananda. Their points were cogent, they were aggressive, confident, and their rebuttals stinging. Perhaps they were more comfortable with the language, but Ananda made it to the finals, so on that point it should have been even. The teams were evenly matched at the beginning, but Lyceum was great in the middle rounds and sadly, Ananda’s closing speech was embarrassing. The kid contradicted himself every other sentence. It was a good match, but by any standard of judgement, Lyceum had won.
Except they didn’t.
They got the best speaker award, but Ananda was given the victory.
I should have realized that there was no way an international school was going to be given the victory. The panel of judges were a set of lawyers and supreme court judges. No way was Ananda College, with their long history and significant ‘old boy’ support, going to lose to an international school. It was a little sickening. If the match was closer, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt, but the winner was pretty obvious.
I wish I could say otherwise, but this is pretty much how Sri Lanka works. It really isn’t what you do that matters, but whom you know. And this is being taught to the next generation of kids in our country. Bravo.