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4 May 2002

Greek Report to 2002 Worlds Council

At the 2002 Worlds Council countries were invited to submit a report to the council to let other nations know about debating in their country.  It was not compulsory but a number of nations gave reports.

GREEK DEBATING REPORT to 2002 Worlds Council

In the following report I will try to do two things. First I will give a (hopefully) comprehensive account of the history of debating in Greece, and its present situation, based on information I have been gathering in the past months. Also I will briefly comment on the tertiary level of the Greek educational system and the use of English in Greek education.

World’s style Debating is fairly recent. As such, it wasn’t practiced systematically before the 1990’s. The Deree College ‘Forensics Club’ renamed itself to ‘Debating Club’ in 1994. As it will be made apparent later, in many aspects, University level Greek Debating is very much connected to Deree College-The American College of Greece.

High-School Debating
Debating was first practiced and still continues to be mostly practiced in English by private secondary schools that offer some or all lessons in a foreign language (mostly English) and are accredited by the Greek Ministry of Education. It was during the 70’s (and in some cases even earlier) that some of them created Forensic Clubs that included, besides Debating, activities like Oral Interpretation, Oratory, Group Discussion, Duet Acting and Impromptu Speaking.

In the mid 1970’s the Pan-Hellenic Forensics Society was set up by Athens College (now called Hellenic American Educational Foundation), Anatolia College-The American College of Thessaloniki, Pierce College, American Community Schools (ACS) and Pinewood School. This Society, which is still run mostly by debating coaches, organized a competition, which was held twice a year, once at Thessaloniki and once in Athens and selects each year the National Team for World Schools. Since the mid 1980’s the tournament has been an annual event with the place of competition alternating between Athens and Thessaloniki. At the moment there around 10 schools participating in debate: those above, plus Kosteas-Geitonas School, Campion School, Moraites School, St. Lawrence, and sometimes Geitonas School. Each school is allowed to send up to 4 debate teams.

In the past year there has been an effort to introduce debating in Greek by the Society of Rhetoric and Dialectic Art of Athens University in cooperation with the Arsakeia-Tositseia Schools. Additionally, there seems to be a plan for introducing Argumentation Contests in the Greek educational system in the instance of the 2400 years from the death of Socrates. Although currently it is dubious how much relation the latter will have with debating it is a much welcomed effort that might lead to an institutional recognition of the educational benefits of debating.

Deree College Debating Club
It was in Deree College that debating was practiced at a University level for the first time. Deree College’s origins can be traced to Pierce College’s upper division in the early 1980’s. Deree College later became a fully accredited Bachelor granting College by New England Association of Schools and Colleges, but, for reasons that will be explained later, is not recognized by the Greek state as a University.

The Deree College Forensics Club was founded in 1987. Ever since it has participated in numerous WUDC (representing Greece as a charter nation in WUDC Constitution), Europeans and British Intervarsity Tournaments. In 1994 with the adoption of the British Parliamentary style and a decline in the interest of other activities, it was renamed ‘Deree College Debating Club’.

Deree College wrote the most important page in Greek Debating history in the hosting of the XVIII Worlds University Debating Championship in 1998, the first time in a non-English Speaking country. Deree had hosted in 1993 the European Universities Debating Championship and several summer debating events but WUDC was something of a much greater scale. The XVIII WUDC was one of the largest (more than 800 participants) and generally considered to be very successful and not only for the social events, which have set an important precedent for WUDC.

In the past 11 years the Deree College Debating Club organizes every semester an Invitational Debating Tournament. This event, which observes WUDC rules (with 6 minute speeches), is attended by most high schools that participate in the Pan-Hellenics Forensic Tournament and also by other debating Clubs and some independent debaters.

Besides Deree College, debating is practiced systematically at a University Level only by University of La Verne-Athens Campus and the Society of Rhetoric and Dialectic Art of Athens University. There have been and still continue to be efforts to introduce Debating in other Universities mostly by students that have been debating in High School. It is from these efforts that some Greek Universities have sent teams to International Debating tournaments. There might be some developments that I might not be aware of especially in Thessaloniki where there is a tradition though Anatolia College.

Based on an interpretation of an article in the Greek Constitution, namely that Higher Education is a State concern, no private universities have been recognized by the Greek Government. It is highly likely that this situation will change in the future but it is not possible to determine the exact time. Consequently, the degrees of Deree College and other private colleges, mostly of foreign origin, are not recognized as equivalent to those of State Greek Universities and don’t have special professional rights.

Although there seems to be an effort to introduce debating in Greek state High-schools, debating as such is not a recognized activity and it will take some time until an institutional effort will be made towards the introduction of debating in Higher Education. There are activities that employ verbal and argumentative skills like Model United Nations or Simulations of the European Parliament but those are still in infant levels. Consequently there isn’t yet any formal organization that coordinates debating events in Greece. It is only through the efforts of individuals that try to keep communications channels open and though the ‘Pan-Hellenic Forensic’ and the ‘Deree College Invitational Debating’ Tournaments that debating is practiced and Greek students have the opportunity

The official language of the Greek Sate is Greek, and this is the language used in state and private schools and state Universities. Foreign languages, mostly English but also German, French, Spanish and Italian, are taught in primary and secondary education although not always at very satisfactory level. There are also elective or obligatory foreign language courses for most universities.

Nevertheless, when one tries to understand the high competence of most young Greeks to European languages there has to be consideration over the great number of Private Language Tutors or Private Language Evening Schools. Almost all Greek students learn at least one foreign language through private tutorship from a very young age. These languages are not used at home but are employed at satisfactory proficiency by late adolescence.

Manolis Polychronides

Deree College Debating Club Vice President

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