Written by Emily Zhao (17A01B), Chairperson
If you’ve ever watched a debate before, you probably think of debating as a bewildering activity, where a bunch of people gather and start vigorously, and sometimes viciously, talking at one another. That’s not what debating is about. Well, the strange, seemingly uncalled for intensity is probably true, but debating is much more than an activity. It’s something that enters your life and before you know it, it becomes your life and the only thing you ever talk about to your friends and then your friends stop talking to you because who wants to talk about debate. Haha. Kidding.
Ignore everything you’ve just read. Here’s what you really need to know about debating. It is about a clash of words, wits and styles, where debaters wield both arguments and rhetoric to convince and persuade. Based on a given topic, debaters speak for opposing sides, and engage in a battle of ideas. In the realm of debating, one must win the contest of both hearts and minds.
The Raffles Debaters, founded in March 1886, is the oldest club in Raffles Institution. Our legacy lies not just in our age, but also in our strong tradition of producing luminaries who contribute to Singapore as true leaders, thinkers and pioneers, from former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to Professor Tommy Koh.
As a club, we seek to nurture critical thinking and a passion for knowledge in each of our members, regardless of their past debating experiences. Here, you can expect to hone both your intellectual adroitness and your speaking skills. These abilities are not just useful in the debating arena, but will also come in extremely useful in other academic pursuits and in your daily life. Even if you are not interested in competitive debating, recreational debating will greatly broaden your perspective of the world and give you a platform to spar on important topics with fellow debaters as passionate about the world as you are.
We are coached by two eminent and well-qualified debaters: Mr Adil Hakeem and Mr Lee Chin Wee. Both are formerly in the Singapore national debating team, and have earned a plethora of accolades in their illustrious debating careers. They may seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry, they are great mentors who are committed to helping you grow as a debater, at your own pace and in your own way. The same can be said for our two teacher I/Cs, Ms Umarani and Mrs Ruth Koh, who both have accompanied and guided the club through its various ups and downs, dedicating themselves to creating a holistic club experience.
Regular training sessions take place twice a week, although in the period leading up to competitions, members should also attend additional sessions in preparation. We attend a range of competitions, from open tournaments, where any debater can register, to institutional championships, where we represent our school. In 2016, we are happy to say that our J2 batch experienced an undefeated season, winning a series of competitions in the early half of the year, and ultimately taking home the most important shield of the year, as the champions of the MOE-ACJC Intercollegiate Debating Championships.
We do much more than just train and compete, as we are also committed to giving back to the school and the community. We participate in a whole variety of other activities, like adjudicating for debating competitions and organising our very own tournaments, such as the prestigious annual Raffles Debate Academy Under-14s Debating Championships. In 2016, we held the Hodge Lodge Debate Series, where we invited students to exciting debates by renowned debaters and activists, followed by Q&A sessions on the topic. We have also created an Instagram account, Raffles Reviews, as a platform to feature Rafflesians and their books – go check it out if you are free!
If you are someone who is enthusiastic, curious and ever ready to challenge yourself, give the Debaters a shot, even if you aren’t entirely sure about what the club holds for you. So far, we’ve been a family of oddballs, but we are always eager to welcome new people into our community, no matter their quirks or idiosyncrasies. There will definitely be uncertainty at the start of your journey, but you could well be on your way to discovering a new skill, a new art, and a new passion.