By Trevor Lee (22A13A)
This is it. Your opponent has just finished to a resounding round of applause, gracefully taking their seat as all eyes turn expectantly onto you. You glance through once more at the points hurriedly scribbled on your cue cards and the frantic tracking of whatever your opponents have just said. You are convinced they are wrong, and it’s time to prove it. With a well-practiced front of confidence and bravado, you hammer into your opponent’s flimsy arguments with sharp wit, fiery rhetorical flair and unassailable facts and logic.
Except you haven’t, apparently, because you are instead met with quizzical looks from the audience members. It seems that for all your rebuttals, constructive material, analysis and structural reasons, you’ve managed to forget one crucial detail that underpins the entirety of your case.
As the adjudicator promptly informs you, you’re still muted on the Zoom call.
Sheepishly, you apologise, rectify the error and turn off your camera feed to cringe in the privacy of your room.
Many think of Raffles Debaters as an elite, prestigious club of glitz and glamour, with high-strung intellectuals engaged in a constant pursuit of rhetorical supremacy and profound insights into the depths of the human condition, or solutions to enigmatic moral and political dilemmas. In actuality, the most heated debate we’ve gotten into is deciding between going to Junction8 or Jai Thai for lunch (Junction8 won the democratic contest, but I’d like to say the Jai Thai enjoyers claimed a moral victory that day).
So who are we? Simply put, we are just a bunch of people with a passion for argument, and a curious medley of interests and personalities of equal parts intriguing and amusing. All of us are drawn together by a common fascination with critical thinking, current affairs, and a desire to improve our skills. At the end of the day, debate is nothing if not a team sport. So whether or not you’re a curious newcomer embarking on their first foray into the exhilarating world of debating, or a battle-scarred veteran looking to push themselves to the next level, you’re sure to find yourself welcome in our quirky family.
What exactly is a debate? In a debate, we split ourselves into two sides (Proposition and Opposition) that present arguments in favour of or against a motion, which is a topic like “This House supports the use of force by social movements” or “This House believes that recidivism should not be an aggravating factor in criminal sentencing”. Really, it can be about anything, from ethics to feminism to geopolitics to, most recently, Squid Game. Essentially, debaters wield logic and rhetoric to convince judges of their team’s position, attempting to disprove opponents’ arguments while simultaneously defending our own. Usually, we are given the motion one hour before the debate begins and are expected to prepare with our team. Once the hour is up, we are left with only our wits, words, cards and teammates and an utter conviction in our side’s stance to claim victory on the debate floor. It’s an intense and electrifying exercise that will leave you just as breathless as any other team sport, even if it’s just your brain that’s doing all the running.
Usually, our training sessions are held twice a week, with an in-person session on Wednesdays from 8am-11pm and an online one on Saturdays from 9am-12pm. As of the date of writing, 20th October, CCA sessions are held online, once a week on Saturdays on Microsoft Teams, from 9pm-12nn due to prevailing Covid-19 precautionary measures.
During training, besides normal sparring matches, we also have drills targeted at honing specific skills such as rebuttals or casebuilding. Further, we sometimes have presentations on relevant current events or topics by fellow club members that help us to broaden our general knowledge and understanding of the world. Occasionally, we also experiment with unorthodox debating formats or topics to gain new perspectives on other aspects of debating such as strategy and case extensions.
Our coaches, Kenneth and Wei Kang, provide personalised feedback about our performance and invaluable insights into the motion, allowing us to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and improve in the future. We are also blessed with three dedicated teachers, Ms Umarani, Mr Ashton Tan and Ms Magno, who go above and beyond to look out for us, be it in terms of our personal development, well-being or CCA experience.
Every debater is afforded opportunities to represent the school at tournaments so that they have the chance to debate and train under intense competitive environments, be it locally or internationally. We also try to do our part for the local debating community by hosting the annual Raffles Debate Academy Under 14 Championship for budding secondary school debaters.
Ultimately, it is not competition performance that matters, but the transferable skills, lessons and knowledge that you take away, as well as the lifelong friendships made along the way. If anything you’ve just read interests you, consider joining us at Raffles Debaters, where, if nothing else, you are guaranteed your fair share of arguments, fun, laughter and (of course) a considerable amount of trolling.
*Cover image taken in accordance with SMMs during the prior phase of Covid-19 measures.