By Raffles Debaters Exco ’20
Who are debaters? Perhaps you have seen us on one of our regular trips to Chill, leaving with an armful of coffee, honey lemon and Strepsils (and sometimes, to the sighs of our coaches, spicy seaweed that is bound to ruin our throats). You might also have spotted us going up to the cashier at Popular bookstore, trying our best to balance a teetering tower of blank index cards. If you happened to be in school on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon, you may have even caught us rushing up the stairs to the 4th floor classrooms (the only cardio we do in this CCA).
Jokes aside, the simple answer is this: we are a motley crew of people who bond over our common love for arguing (in debates only, we must stress—it is probably unwise to extend this into one’s daily life) and desire to become better at it. Although we say “arguing”, debating is more than that—it is a clash of style and wit, where speakers go head-to-head in a fiery exchange of arguments and rebuttals. In debates, teams are given a topic, such as “This house would support military retaliation against cyber attacks”, to either propose or oppose (we don’t get to choose our sides!). Speakers then construct and defend their case while attacking their opponent’s case, often by evaluating moral principles and practical outcomes for different stakeholders. Ultimately, logic and rhetoric must be wielded effectively to convince the judges of their team’s stance.
Our club, founded in 1886, is the oldest CCA in RI, and has a strong tradition for excellence, having produced luminaries who have gone on to contribute to Singapore such as former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Professor Tommy Koh. We seek to nurture critical thinking and a passion for knowledge in all our club members, regardless of debating background. By the time you leave the club, we hope you will have honed your speaking skills and intellectual dexterity, developed a greater sensitivity to the world around us, and made some good memories along the way.
All these may sound rather daunting, but fear not—we have capable and qualified coaches who, along with our dedicated teachers-in-charge, Ms Umarani, Mrs Ruth Koh and Mr Ashton Tan, will go out of their way to help you grow! Training is held twice a week for four hours per session, usually comprising debates, drills on specific skills, and feedback sessions to boost our development as debaters. Often, our illustrious alumni also come by to spar us and give valuable advice. In addition, our club participates in numerous competitions every year, ensuring that everyone, new and seasoned debaters alike, has the experience of debating in a competitive setting. We are proud to say that our debaters did extremely well in 2019, winning multiple competitions such as the Singapore International Schools’ Debating League and Infernus Cup, clinching top 10 speaker rankings at the Oldham Cup and Asian World Schools Debating Championships, and emerging as champions at the MOE-ACJC Intercollegiate Debating Championships. Alongside these achievements, our club members have also made great personal strides as speakers and debaters (which we are sure you will too)!
Honing our skills as debaters, however, is not all that we do, as we also actively find ways to serve our community. Our club members frequently volunteer to adjudicate at tournaments, and we also organise the annual Raffles Debate Academy Under-14s Debating Championships, a debate tournament catered to secondary school students. We have also held the Hodge Lodge Debate Series, inviting students to witness engaging debates by guest speakers on various topical issues.
If there’s one more reason we hope you will join us, it would be the community you will find in this club. Cliche as this may sound, we are more than just a group of people who meet twice a week. Rather, we are a family, and some of the best memories in debate are made over post-training meals at J8/ Prata House (including the perennial struggle to find tables long enough for everyone), bad jokes/memes shared on group chats and wacky games played at club events (for our club camp in 2019, we had a lip sync battle—fun stuff!). Admittedly, debate can be challenging at times, but besides becoming a better debater, what makes the journey particularly worthwhile is the camaraderie you’ll share with your fellow debaters.
If all these sound inviting to you (and we have successfully convinced you with our logic and rhetoric), we invite you to come for trials! Prior experience is not necessary—we only request that you come with an open mind and a sense of fun. Whether you are a first-timer or an experienced debater, we welcome you to our club!