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D-Day for foes to be friends
- Get set for Oxford & Cambridge vs Harvard & Yale

The 2012 Calcutta Club The Telegraph International Debate, presented by ALSOC and Calcutta Debating Circle, in which students from Oxford and Cambridge were pitted against each other

2012: Oxford vs Cambridge.

2013: Oxford + Cambridge vs Harvard + Yale.

Their individual rivalry — Oxford vs Cambridge and Harvard vs Yale — is the stuff of legends. But on December 21, Calcutta will see these traditional rivals team up for a cause — The Calcutta Club The Telegraph International Debate 2013, presented by ALSOC and Calcutta Debating Circle.

The debate, which last year saw Oxford students team up with Oxford alumni from the city against a similar team from Cambridge to debate populism, policy and parliamentary democracy, has not just become a calendar event for the city but also put Calcutta on the world debating map.

“The quest for true globalisation is globalisation of the intellect and the enthusiasm of all the institutes in participating in this debate was phenomenal. I was informed that Oxford and Cambridge haven’t debated outside England for almost 1,000 years and both Oxford and Cambridge wanted to be back in Calcutta. They said it was a gratifying experience to have debated in front of 2,500 people last winter. Oxford Union even has a picture of the debate,” said Kunal Sarkar, of the Calcutta Debating Circle.

“Among student debaters it is quite an event when we approached Harvard and Yale they said they knew about the debate and I did not have to ask them twice,” added Sarkar.

On the evening of Saturday the 21st, arch-rivals Oxford and Cambridge will join hands in a war of words against archrivals from across the ‘pond’, Harvard and Yale, on the Calcutta Club lawns to debate: “This house believes that Hollywood represents cultural tyranny”.

The British team will, of course, propose the motion and their American enemies will oppose it. Each team will have a resident champion — American consul general in Calcutta Helen LaFave for Harvard-Yale and British deputy high commissioner Scott Furssedonn-Wood for Oxford-Cambridge.

“We wanted the exhibition debate at Calcutta Club to be light-hearted this year, hence the topic,” said Sarkar.

But before the rivals gang up, they will be pitted against each other and against other students from Calcutta and Delhi on December 20 for The 2nd ALSOC Challenge Debate, presented by The Alumnorum Societas (St. Xavier’s School Old Boys’ Association), in association with The Telegraph and Calcutta Debating Circle. Two-member teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale will battle each other as well as teams from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, and St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, over: “In the opinion of the house, higher education is essentially an exercise in elitism”.

“Debating is an important part of Jesuit institutes, so we wanted to continue the tradition with an issue that would be global and deal with education,” said S. Ramalingam, co-convenor of the 2nd Alsoc debate.

Two other teams, one from Presidency University and one from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, will join the other six for the debate to be held at St. Xavier’s College. They defeated teams from Jadavpur University, Loreto College and Calcutta Medical College in a qualifier at Xaxier’s on December 7. The topic? “Politics pollutes education”.

Vandalism of the Presidency laboratory, the Naxalite movement and even Nelson Mandela were tossed into the debating ring. The Presidency team of Srijeet Bhattacharya and Sharan Banerjee won with examples and their play on the definition of the three words “politics”, “pollutes” and “education”. The IIM-C team of Adil Ahmed and Deepak Chaube grabbed the second spot with a flurry of facts and figures.

Before the overseas students don their battle gear for the two back-to-back debates they will be part of a panel discussion on youth issues with students of other schools and colleges at The Heritage School on December 19 where they will explore differences in the education systems of the three countries, the standard of education and even accessibility.

“We wanted our students to share the stage with students from such prestigious universities, universities that most of the students aspire to study in. It will give them a lot of confidence and a chance to find out more about those institutes,” said Seema Sapru, principal, The Heritage School.

After a whirlwind three days, the students of the foreign universities will leave for the world debating Championships in Chennai.