By Yeo Shi Wen (18A13A), Chairperson
So you are wandering around the B block fourth floor corridors on a dim Monday evening when you see, out of nowhere, a brightly lit classroom. Angry shouting punctuated by peals of delirious laughter occasionally erupt from this classroom and it is populated by a strange, Chill-eating, argument-loving species of students. Or you are in school on a Saturday morning and you encounter troops of people lurching towards the B block classrooms, bleary eyed and coffee fed. If either of these has ever happened to you, congratulations! You have encountered our rare breed – the Raffles Debaters.
What is debating? Debates involve heated exchanges or arguments over a certain motion, say, “This house would end the war on drugs”. Teams are assigned sides of the motion to debate and they have to levy rebuttals and arguments so as to emerge the more convincing side. Debate presents a unique intellectual challenge – finding two sides to any issue and being able to defend a side that is not congruous to your beliefs. The thrill of rising to give a speech, trying to squeeze as many lines of logic as you possibly can in the short eight minutes, with adrenaline coursing through your veins, is something all of us here have come to love. If you’ve ever found yourself searching for that extra adrenaline, or a space where you can debate the most random yet most important issues facing our world today – from feminism, to geopolitics, economics, culture – you’ve come to the right place.
Each year, our club participates in a series of competitions spread across the terms so you can be assured that you will most likely be given an opportunity to compete for the school. Founded in March 1886, we are the oldest club in the Institution and in keeping with this tradition of excellence, we consistently do well at national level competitions. In 2017, we clinched national champions at the NUS Political Association Debate Championships, Oldham Cup and the Youth Debate Opens. If competitions are not really your thing, our trainings are also conducted by eminent coaches Mr Marvin Loh and Mr Arthur Lee, who make every training fruitful and rewarding even for one who would just like to debate recreationally.
As a club, we do much more than actually debate- we also make it a point to reach out to the broader community. Each year, we organize the Raffles Debate Academy U14s tournament for secondary schools in Singapore. In 2017, we organized the inaugural One Raffles Internals which brought together debaters from RI and RGS for a Saturday of fun debates. For the school community, we also organize the Hodge Lodge Debate Series throughout the year – in 2017, we had sessions on race and gender, getting the school community engaged in thinking critically about issues that concern all of us in today’s society.
But of course, if all of what I’ve just said is all there is to the Raffles Debaters, none of us would wake up in the wee hours of Saturday mornings every week and drag ourselves to school. What, I think, really keeps all of us coming back is the warmth of the fellowship that this club, this family proffers. Arguably, the hilarious memes that we share, the running inside jokes that we cherish and our ridiculous love for food (from Chill or elsewhere) really make debating worth it. The late night conversations we share as we troop over to J8 at the unholiest of hours for food after training, the deep heart to hearts on the train back, or even the silliest of jokes and banter that we share with our coaches during training – these all forge strong friendships in the embers of the B block classrooms into the late nights and are memories that are sure to stick with us forever.
Now, it is our sincere hope to extend this family and welcome more people to share the magic of debating with us. Our club welcomes everyone – the stray wanderer, the curious visitor, the tentative first-timer, or the seasoned debater. Our only pre-requisite is a love for fun that is close at heart. Inasmuch as debate is challenging, it is the thrill of argument and the warmth of companionship that makes the club home. And if you too would like to make the Raffles Debaters your home, we look forward to seeing you at trials!