An Interview with Qatar Debate Instructor Alex De Jager
by Rayan El Amine
Alex De Jager is a debate instructor with Qatar Debate, where he is fully employed teaching debate skills. He is presenting a very interesting workshop this year around Thought Glitches at QLC. His innovative ideas surrounding debate, and his workshop at the upcoming conference make his perspective a very special one.
What attracts you to debate?
I truly believe that the debating skills teache can uplift society and make a difference. I’ve also witnessed how it can give young people a voice and transform them into informed and considered leaders. On a more personal level, I am the sort of person who gets easily bored if I am not constantly challenged or made to think about new and interesting things. Debate is an activity that really never gets boring, because it touches every single part of our lives. That means that I can find ways to expand my horizons and think about new problems all of the time.
How do you feel these workshops at QLC impact the students?
On a general level, QLC is valuable by simply bringing together young people into one place where they can interact and learn from one another. In terms of my own workshop, I hope to give them some tools for smarter thinking. These should be helpful not only in making them better debaters, but impact them by helping them in everyday life. We are being bombarded by information nonstop, whether through advertising or politicians or other sources, and we have to make judgements and decisions every day. My workshop should equip students to think evaluate information and make better decisions.
This year your workshop is centered around Thought Glitches, how do you hope to minimize this issue in your workshop?
Despite being an extremely powerful instrument, our minds are also very easily tricked or deceived. Some of the same things that make us so good at thinking can sometimes have glitches that leads to poor thinking. This is a very broad subject area, especially to cover in just 50 minutes. I have tried to distil the topic into a few common areas where we all tend to make mistakes when faced with information or decisions, and how to improve ourselves.
What excites you about a conference like QLC?
I am truly passionate about working with young people, and although it is often said, it is true that the people at this conference will one day be in positions of power and influence. Creating a space for them to learn and develop their skills and create a community is incredibly exciting. For me, it is a privilege to be part of it.
Finally, what are the skills most pivotal to be successful in Debate?
Broadly speaking, Debate skills can be divided into two areas. One part of it is the ability to develop good ideas. This is where you learn to think analytically and critically and creatively, and formulating the information and ideas you generate into coherent arguments. The second part is the ability to present those ideas in a cogent and persuasive manner. This is things like presentation skills. Both of these skill areas – analytic thinking and presentation skills – are essential to being a successful debater and being successful as a leader, student, and professional.