By Carina Lee Ming En (19A01A)
What can you do in eight minutes? If you’re athletically inclined or particularly speedy, you could run your 2.4 in preparation for the biennial NAPFA test. For the more studious amongst us, you could write an answer to a six-mark Economics question (complete with #econsframework). And of course, eight minutes is also the optimal amount of time to prepare a cup of instant noodles to satisfy your highly refined palate.
You could be doing all of these things, but allow me to offer the comparative — In eight minutes, you could passionately deliver a stunning debate speech, filled with insightful analysis on geopolitics, witty mental gymnastics (debate is, after all, a mind sport) on issues of moral philosophy, and compelling arguments that showcase your vast intelligence. Aside from some sporadic interruptions from your opponents, during those 8 minutes, the floor is yours. Everyone is listening to you, captivated, as you slowly draw them over to your side through your superior argumentation and charismatic style. At the end of your speech, you have clearly demonstrated your mental capacity. You’ve thoroughly trounced your opponents, leaving them speechless and with an existential crisis regarding their flawed beliefs. In those 8 minutes, you have defended logic itself.
Or at least, that is what our club members aspire towards. In reality, our eight minutes are mostly composed of zealous, albeit not always sound, attempts at constructing points, spontaneously coming up with ethical axioms (then trying to pass them off as moral absolutes), and – amidst all the chaos – sections which our coach kindly refers to as “bright sparks”.
Our club seeks to nurture critical thinking and a passion for knowledge in all of our club members, regardless of debating background. We hope to equip our debaters with intellectual dexterity, enhanced speaking skills, and a more perceptive view of the world around us, competencies that will serve you well in both academic pursuits and beyond. However, in the spirit of championing our oft-espoused principles on the importance of an informed choice free from coercion, it is my civic duty to inform you that debating is more than just loud arguing, and it is certainly not easy. It is often trying, and mentally fatiguing. But at the same time, it is immensely rewarding, a transformative experience, and truly, a worthy tradeoff. After all, (not to confuse causation with correlation, but) as the oldest CCA in RI (founded in 1886!) with a strong tradition of excellence, producing luminaries who have gone on to contribute to Singapore such as former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Professor Tommy Koh, we must be doing something right!
Because variety makes life spicy, we also do more than just debate during trainings. Every debater has the opportunity to participate in tournaments. if that’s not your cup of tea, we also organise our very own competition, the prestigious annual Raffles Debate Academy Under-14s Debating Championships. In addition, we hold the Hodge Lodge Debate Series a few times a year, where we engage the school community to think critically about contemporary social issues, such as race relations and gender norms.
This may all seem incredibly intimidating, but rest assured, there is a great deal of support that will allow you to develop in your own time, while still pushing your limits. We train twice a week, for four hours each session, during which we are graced by the presence of our two esteemed (and very nice) coaches who impart great nuggets of wisdom to us. Usual activities include spars (aka debates, but in cooler lingo B), the occasional critical thinking or oratorical exercise, and sometimes, the privilege of learning from our returning alumni who have had illustrious debate careers of their own. Our club is made up of an eclectic mix of people, from those who genuinely find joy in dutifully reading The Economist, to others who spend hours trawling through Buzzfeed articles under the guise of reading up for “pop culture debates”, and of course, intense prata lovers (you can deduce from here what we usually eat for club dinners), so everyone fits in. Whether you are a veteran primary school debater, or a fresh-faced first timer, we welcome you to join!
At the end of your journey with us, you may not have become the uncontested guardian of Reason and Rhetoric, but even in the absolute worst case, you are guaranteed (if you put in effort! — every good policy needs caveats) to leave a better speaker, more worldly person, and with a boatload (if not a shipful) of friends. And in true debate fashion, for all these reasons, I’ve never been prouder to propose!