Young Deaf Debaters

For many years the Dutch Debating Institute (NDI) has organised the national debating championship for highschool students. In 2002, Pragma contacted the NDI to investigate the possibility of organising a debating championship for deaf high school students - with the deaf youngsters debating in the National Sign Language of the Netherlands.

The objective: to teach deaf young people in a fun and exciting way to be better communicators, either commicating with other sign language users, or with hearing people. A good debater can abstract, find arguments pro or con, and present these in a cohesive, AND attractive way. A good debater also can reflect critically upon the arguments of his or her opponent, so he or she can undermine or contradict these effectively. Skills many deaf young people lack, or could refine.

In May 2003 the two directors of the NDI, Johan Doesburg and Roderik van Grieken, gave a short training to deaf students of the Institute for the Deaf in Haren, Guyot. The two trainers - who didn't know any sign language, and actually had never met deaf young people before - were assisted by 3 experienced sign language interpreters. Some teachers, and several deaf co-workers also attended the session. The training was very successfull: students were enthusiastic, teachers saw the added benefit of preparing deaf young people in this way, for full participation in the hearing community. 

Later, the NDI teachers trained two other groups of deaf highschool students, with equal success.