In a previous post, I mentioned that I was preparing a team of students for YDAC (Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference), an English debate competition that is hosted by the U.S. Embassy. The competition is for Fulbright schools in the Jeollanam-do and Jeollabuk-do provinces (I live in the latter). On November 23rd, 10 Fulbright ETAs brought teams of 4 students each to the city of Gwangju to compete in YDAC. Each team had to prepare a resolution that proposed a solution to a local or global issue. The teams split into pairs, and each pair gave a 5-7 minute speech on their resolution. Other teams then had to ask questions and give pro/con statements on the resolution. The resolutions were quite varied, ranging from re-unification with North Korea to improving the Korean educational system.
And that was only the first half of the competition! Part Two consisted of a mock crisis scenario that posed a diplomatic issue. Each team received the same hypothetical scenario. All 4 students from each team had 80 minutes to write a response to the scenario. They then had to read their response as a speech. It was an extremely difficult scenario! It asked students to imagine that North Korea had captured 5 American journalists. In exchange for the journalists’ release, North Korea was demanding the rights to build nuclear weapons. America was asking South Korea to intervene; if no solution was reached, the U.S. would send naval vessels into Korean waters. The students had to imagine that they were Korean ambassadors and write a letter to Hilary Clinton to suggest the best plan of action. I can hardly imagine doing this in my own high school debate experience, let alone tackling it as a non-native English speaker! But all of the students gamely took on the challenge, working furiously through the 80 minutes. After it was over, a few ETAs led the students in some activities to let them unwind a bit and to try to take their minds off of the impending results. Needless to say, the students were exhausted after a long day of speaking English.
I’m extremely proud to announce that my students earned first place in the competition! They worked so hard to prepare their speech and to research the other teams’ resolutions, putting in tons of extra time despite the fact that they are always buried in school work and not far from final exams. And I was so impressed by their work ethic: I always met with them while they were working on YDAC preparations, but I was pretty much only there to supervise and check their grammar. They did all of the research and writing themselves. I was also proud of their creative thinking; they came up with our resolution topic all on their own. Our topic was music dumping and the flat-sum system in the music industry. In Korea, “flat-sum systems” are the most widely used means of downloading music. Through these systems, the user has many options, all at a dirt-cheap price: a small fee will earn you unlimited streaming (i.e. free listening, sort of like Pandora or Spotify), large quantities of song downloads, or both. When you break down the prices, one song costs a mere 60 won, which is less than 6 cents in USD. Obviously, this means that the music artist takes in very small amounts of revenue, even if their songs are downloaded millions of times. In addition, the distribution of income is wildly unbalanced, with the music label taking in the vast majority of the profits. So, the term “music dumping” refers to the trend of music being sold so cheaply that it is essentially being thrown away. Interesting, n’est-ce pas?
Anyway, all of the students worked so hard and really put in their better-than-best effort. There were many impressive teams at the competition, and I think it was a pretty close run for the top three spots. Of course, winning wasn’t the most important thing; the idea is for students to think critically and gain confidence in their English while also getting the chance to interact with students from other schools (which is pretty rare, it seems). But I could never say that hearing my students announced as the winners, hearing their ecstatic shrieks of delight, and having them launch themselves at me for hugs and jumps-up-and-down-while-holding-hands wasn’t one of the greatest feelings in the world, because it definitely was, and they definitely earned it. I’m so ridiculously proud of my students, and so lucky to have the pleasure of teaching them!