“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.” Christopher Hitchens’ words are a reminder of why the Raffles Debaters exist: not merely to win trophies and medals, nor to prepare you for the infamous Oral Presentation at the end of your first year, but to provide a platform for individuals to share different viewpoints and discuss issues that our world faces today in greater depth. In doing so, we aim to inspire a genuine concern about these issues, and to kindle a lasting passion for the art of debating.
Who are we? Founded in March 1886, we are the oldest CCA in Raffles Institution, with 128 years of rich history. The first motion the Raffles Debaters ever debated was about whether rickshaws should be abolished, a pertinent matter in the day – though rickshaws are rarely seen, much less debated about, now! This keen awareness of current social, economic, political, and cultural issues continues till today, and whether you attend each training as a speaker or observer, you’ll definitely come away with a broadened knowledge and a deeper understanding of whichever topic has been debated.
So why should you join us? Being a Raffles Debater presents you with a whole host of other opportunities outside the Raffles Programme curriculum. You’ll have opportunities to participate in nerve-wrecking but exciting inter-school competitions, like the annual MOE-ACJC Intercollegiate Debating Championship, and “open” tournaments which everyone can take part in, such as the SMU Hammers Debating Championship.
You’ll also get to be on the organizing end of large-scale debating tournaments, like the Raffles Debate Academy Under-14 Debating Championship. This year, we also organized the second edition of the Prometheus Cup – a seven-day international debating tournament! (A video montage of the highlights can be found here.)
Last but not least, you’ll have the opportunity to be part of an inclusive and welcoming debating family. Around March every year, we hold our annual CCA camp, where members get to know each other better and bond with one another over fun activities. We also have dinner together every Tuesday evening during training, and we try to go for lunch outings whenever we can!
When asked why he chose to join the Raffles Debaters in JC, EXCO member Samuel Teo replied: “Personally, I feel that there truly is something magical about debating. Every round in a competition, every training session and every speech you make is a brand new experience, no less enjoyable than the previous one, which keeps you always coming back for more and looking forward to every debating opportunity.”
Trainings are conducted twice a week by our experienced coaches. Most sessions involve full debates on various motions, where each team is given time to prepare their arguments before the speakers deliver their speeches. Motions can range from more ‘serious’ topics like social, economic, and political issues, to more lighthearted areas like pop culture and entertainment, so you can be sure that the same motion will almost never be debated twice during trainings! Time is also set aside for self-directed presentations, where members can read up on a pertinent or controversial issue in the news, or an area they are passionate about, and share their knowledge with the rest of the club. Last year, our members gave informative lectures on the Eurozone crisis, the Edward Snowden case, the US political system, and – closer to home – Singapore’s Population White Paper. These presentations will improve your general knowledge, which is definitely useful in debates, and they have also been empirically proven to be Generally very useful for a certain Paper. Need we say more? :)
Debating may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you give it a shot, you might just find that it’s the right CCA for you! If you have always been passionate about argumentation; if you’d like to try something new and perhaps (who knows?) discover the debating talent you never knew you had; or if you are the sort to relish the simple challenge and thrill of standing up and telling someone that they’re wrong – join the Raffles Debaters, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.