European Union Centre of Excellence welcomes high school debaters

- May 14, 2015

Director Ruben Zaiotti (centre) advises students at the Day of Debate. (Andrea D’Sylva photo)
Director Ruben Zaiotti (centre) advises students at the Day of Debate. (Andrea D’Sylva photo)

Eighty students from three different Halifax area high schools recently gathered on Dalhousie’s campus to argue with each other — in a controlled and professional manner, of course.

On April 16, the European Union Centre of Excellence (EUCE) held its annual Day of Debate for International Baccalaureate (IB) high school students. In its first year, the event welcomed 18 students from Citadel High. Now in its third year, the Day of Debate has grown and hosted 80 high school students from École du Carrefour du Grand-Havre, Charles P. Allen, and Halifax West.  

This event exposes local high school students to Dalhousie's campus while providing them with an opportunity to learn more about current affairs and high-level debating.

The day began with an introduction and background of the European Union (EU) by Ruben Zaiotti, director of Dalhousie’s EUCE and assistant professor of Political Science. Dr. Zaiotti also participated as the event’s emcee.

Fourth-year honours Political Science student Nicole MacLean then shared her experience with learning about the EU through a Political Science course she took at Dalhousie, which encouraged her to participate in the 2014 EU Study Tour and to apply for a Masters in European Affairs program. She starts that program this fall at the University of Toronto.

Assessing the arguments

Topics debated throughout the day included: the potential opportunities and challenges that Canada and the EU could face with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA); whether the countries of Turkey and Ukraine should or should not join the EU; and whether Greece should stay in the Eurozone. Prior to each debate, the students were allowed 10-15 minutes to band together to prepare their arguments. Eight teams debated throughout the course of the day. Each debate involved four students from each team, who took turns providing their arguments and responding to questions from the opposing side.

The debates were moderated by Dalhousie students Olivia Huynh and Yousef Bolous of the Dal Debating Society. Olivia and Yousef also provided analyses of each debate and offered general advice on debating to the student participants.

“Though each round had a designated winner of the debate, all teams were winners for putting forth the effort and the argument,” said EUCE Centre Coordinator Andrea D’Sylva. “An event such as this allows the Centre to showcase the importance of studying the EU and relate that information to current news events.”

The European Union Centre of Excellence was established at Dalhousie in 2006, funded jointly by the European Union and Dalhousie. The EUCE supports student learning of the EU through courses, speakers and the opportunity for student exchanges and study tours. It is one of five Centres across Canada and part of a network around the globe.


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