Debate Society leads student workshop in Morocco

Two members of the St. John’s Debate Team traveled to Morocco last week to start what they hope will eventually become an international debate exchange program.

Steve Llano, the director of the debate society, and Sanae Elmoudden, assistant professor of Rhetoric Communication and Theatre held a workshop with

juniors Alisha Siqueira and Tim Barr to teach students from a local university the fundamentals of debate and argumentation.

The workshop took place at the Institute for Leadership and Communication Studies, a university located in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.

The group left for the five day trip on Wednesday Oct. 27.

“The first day we went to the school and learned about the university. We got a tour of the campus, and the different clubs that the university has to offer,” Llano said.

The experience included more than just debate.

“I lived with a Moroccan family,” said Siqueira. “Staying with them rather than in a hotel really provided a glimpse into Moroccan life.”

Llano spoke about the value of fostering this kind of international dialogue.

“The education goes both ways,” he said. “We’re teaching them about competitive debating and how to make a good argument and how to present yourself, and they are teaching us about their culture and the things that they value.”

Barr said the cultural experience was one he will never forget.

“I felt that the culture was beautiful because it was very open,” he said. “People were very friendly and the hospitality was enormous. People were very generous with their time.”

Llano believes his students made a breakthrough in the debate culture at the I.L.C.S.

“They didn’t have anything like this in Morocco but now that we’ve done it, the students think it’s really amazing and the faculty think it’s great, so they want to continue, they want to push it even further,” Llano said.

Llano opened the idea of travelling to Morocco to the whole debate team last spring, and selected two members to participate in the exchange this fall.

The decision on who to send was based on which debaters he felt were serious enough about the trip and had enough experience.

“I thought they would be the best teachers,” Llano said, about Barr and Siqueira.

“I thought they would have the most credibility where they could stand up in front of a group of students and confidently say ‘this is how to do it, let’s practice it together,” said Llano.

Llano anticipates that more workshops like this one can be expected in the future.