Dear Friend of Verbattle,
The event that started as Verbattle, the debate championship, has today reached the point of being recognised as the best and the most efficient platform for growth, leadership and thought-exchange for children and young people.
It all started with an internet search for a possible academic partnership between a school in India and a school abroad sharing similar values. The search threw up a list of many knowledge-based activities, out of which the most prominent ones were the debating championships held all over the world, particularly in North America and Europe.
It was surprising to note that while countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were either hosting international debate events or were a part of big global debating championships, India, the biggest democracy in the world, a country that celebrates unity in diversity achieved through the parliamentary system of governance with a history of debate and healthy arguments, was nowhere on the scene.
My first thought here was that if the use of debate in an open society is most effective in any nation, that nation has to be India where it can work better than anywhere else. Unless it encourages its citizens to debate responsibly and settle issues democratically and non-violently, India, with its vast diversity and differences, and the unlimited potential for conflict at every level and in every corner, will have disastrous social catastrophes as the only possibilities in the future.
It is the developing world - the Third World countries and nascent democracies - that needs debate as a civilised alternative to armed conflict to settle issues. It is this thought that brought about the urge to start and establish a debating platform for children and young people in this country. The idea, once germinated, caused enough restlessness till it was discussed with like-minded people, and on the spur of the moment a word was created – Verbattle.
With ‘Verbal’, an adjective, and ‘Battle’, a verb, coming together, the word Verbattle was formed, which is an adjective, a noun, as well as a verb. Therefore, when the very civilised expression that is verbal, deals with a very brutal, crude and uncivilised action that is battle, the cerebrally activated mechanisms of offense and defense transform into a meaningful and humane output of speech with corresponding gestures, conquering the urge to battle, nevertheless retaining the spirit, aggression, and the passion of battle.
Verbattle could be the only word that expresses how two opposing parties or a group of people with differences of opinion can redefine battle and discover a more evolved way of settling differences or winning each other over.
Originally conceptualised as just a debating event to be held as a State-level debate championship in English for school students - in the age group of 12 to 16 years - in Karnataka, Verbattle has been evolving into a bigger platform ever since. This evolution was a natural process based on inputs from people who believed in its potential, participant-response, and the result of the conduct of the event itself.
It was surprising and exhilarating to watch some children display amazing acumen in recollecting facts, putting forth sensible arguments, and expressing ideas and opinions that were never heard before, and least expected from a child of that age group. Verbattle could just not remain a mere debate competition; it had to move on to a bigger space with a better role.
The format itself is interesting because the whole competition starts on the premise of the beauty of thinking. Students are invited to participate and discover whether they have the potential to become thought leaders. The potential for leadership is present in every human being. It only needs the right opportunity to emerge in a more defined form, accompanied by the uniqueness of thought and opinion.
After the selection of participating teams at the school level, the zonal level becomes a selection process to identify well-structured teams on the basis of language and thinking abilities, mannerisms and voice. Also, the constitution of the team of two itself is considered on the basis of evaluating both members to see if they are fine minds that are capable of seeing all sides of an issue and, most importantly, both sides of an argument.
The next stages leading up to the finals are processes to discover the three best teams that can debate, deliberate, and discuss on their own any subject with the necessary alacrity and wisdom equipped with information, means and skills when they reach the finals.
The best team thus reaching the finals is believed to have the qualities, talents, skills and diverse knowledge essential to independently argue for a considerable amount of time under thorough and tough scrutiny by their opponents, opponents’ mentors, judges, and the audience. In the eight events of Verbattle, the workability and veracity of this method has been proven and established. Verbattle's aim to discover the ability in children to display human competence has been uncompromisingly achieved.Deepak Thimaya