WINNIPEG — For the second year in a row, students from St. John’s-Ravenscourt School have won the Asper Cup International High School Debate.
From left are Aidan Fishman, a member of St. John’s-Ravenscourt School’s debating team; Moe Levy, executive director of the Asper Foundation; and debating team member Adam Yan.
Ravenscourt is Winnipeg’s, and one of Canada’s, leading private schools. While nominally an Anglican school, Ravenscourt has a substantial number of Jewish students enrolled, a fact that was reflected in the makeup of the winning team. Both team members, Aidan Fishman and Adam Yan, are Jewish students who attend Ravenscourt.
This year’s debates took place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with the championship round late on the Monday afternoon at the Berney Theatre in the Asper Jewish Community Campus.
The judges for the championship round were Moe Levy, the executive director of he Asper Foundation; Morley Walker, Winnipeg Free Press book section editor; and Marty Weinberg, the president of Canterbury Park Private Equity Fund. The winners of the debate were announced at the closing banquet in the evening.
In the final debate, Yan and Fishman took the position that coalition government is the most effective form of government. They argued that a coalition government better allows for multiple viewpoints and provides for greater stability and better representation. They cited the examples of Lebanon before the civil war and Israel. In Israel’s case, they pointed out that successive coalition governments have allowed the smaller Orthodox parties a say in government, thereby keeping the country’s Orthodox element on side.
Their opponents, a pair of students from West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, countered that coalition government is less democratic, less stable and less efficient. They cited the case of Italy, which has had 12 governments in the last 13 years. They further noted that Italy’s current prime minister, Sylvio Berlusconi, was forced to resign his office two years ago on corruption charges but is now back in power, despite that his party has only 10 per cent of the seats in the Italian Parliament.
The students had 30 minutes to prepare their arguments. No research was allowed.
Linda Martin, a debating teacher at Gray Academy of Jewish Education in Winnipeg, said that this year the Asper Cup competition attracted 42 teams from 26 schools – private and public – with representation from every province in Canada, as well as a team from Israel. That is double last year’s turnout.
She notes that 14 Gray Academy students were among the debaters. The Gray Academy’s debating program was established five years ago by Winnipeg businessman Raymond Kives, whose son. Michael, was a world champion debater at Ravenscourt.
The Gray Academy team of Grade 12 students Josh Fineblit and Jonathan Ripstein had the best marks in the regulation rounds but finished third in the playoffs.
Martin said that Fineblit is going to compete in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships for high school students in England this March. Ripstein is trying to earn a spot on the Canadian high school debating team for the world championships, which will also be held in England this March.