By Lau Ian Kai Ethan (Chairperson) and Wu Yu (Exco Member)
How long is 8 minutes to you? That’s quite a long time if you’re sprinting for a 2.4km run, or waiting for a reply after apologising to an angry friend. But if you’re talking to a debater, they would tell you that they regularly hit 8 minutes in their speeches. If you debate, in these 8 minutes, you would have constructed a case that wields moral, logical, and emotional superiority, deftly dismantled your opponents’ arguments, and displayed your oratorical finesse. In these 8 minutes, you’ve defended democracy, fixed food shortage, and overcome climate change—you’ve never been prouder to propose.
That’s ideally speaking, of course. While we do debate a wide variety of topics ranging from ethics to sports, our most fervent debates are informal arguments centred around topics like whether vanilla or strawberry is the better flavour in Neapolitan ice cream (the chocolate lovers suffered a soul-crushing loss that time). As you might be able to tell, our club members are a diverse bunch with all sorts of opinions on almost every issue imaginable, but who nonetheless come together to form a close-knit community who have a deep appreciation for thorough arguments and a passion for debating. Hardened veterans and complete newcomers, MUNners and actors—we welcome all in Raffles Debaters.
But what exactly is debating? In short, to debate is to participate in an organised argument. We are presented with the topic of debate in the form of a motion, such as “This House Supports the use of violence by social justice movements” (or, on a better day, something like “This House Would make first contact with aliens”). Given 1 hour to prepare their arguments, the proposition defends the use of violence and the opposition criticises it. Once the hour is up, we only have our wits, words, conviction and sparse cue cards to claim victory on the debate floor.
Our training takes place twice a week: in-person from 4-7pm on Wednesdays, and online from 9am-12pm on Saturdays. On Wednesdays, we typically hold spars within the club to hone our abilities, with our coaches Kenneth and Bharath providing personalised feedback on our speeches and cases afterwards. On Saturdays, we have both spars and presentations on various motions, which the coaches will comment and critique on. Apart from this, we also engage in more normal activities, such as game-show quizzes and weekly club dinners at J8, Bosch, or Jai Thai after Wednesday training sessions!
Every debater, whether you’re an enthusiastic newcomer or an experienced veteran, is accorded the opportunity to represent the school in debating tournaments. This is a good opportunity to improve ourselves as debaters under pressure, while also getting to meet new people with new perspectives and ideas. We also give back to the debating circuit by hosting the annual RDA Under-14 Debating Championship for budding secondary school debaters.
To many of us, the one-and-a-half years spent in Raffles Debaters will feel like the 8 minutes of a speech: long and challenging when you’re in the midst of it, but suddenly over when you still have so much more to do and say. Although we do hope to continue the illustrious legacy of debaters before us, what is important is that we better ourselves as speakers and critical thinkers, and forge close, unforgettable friendships that will remain with us long after we finish our last speech.
We’ve never been prouder to propose.