Competitive Debating — An Activity Like No Other

“Alright, so please remember to work on two things for next week: building a cohesive model and impacting your rebuttal. We will have another debate next week, and I do not want to see any mitigatory rebuttal.” It was 4:45 pm on a Wednesday, and the saints’ debate club was wrapping up another fruitful session. This time, members vigorously discussed if governments should disarm the police, an extremely topical motion. All exhausted from a long day of school and debate, most students asked a few questions before quickly leaving the Zoom call—only the most passionate debaters stayed behind to get additional feedback.

Like most clubs, the pandemic has forced the saint’s debate club to move online. Despite the difficulties associated with this transition, it has not stopped members from engaging in thoughtful and constructive discourse with their peers. Junior debaters meet via Zoom on Mondays, while senior debaters meet on Wednesdays to discuss various political, ethical, and economic issues. While the circumstance may not be ideal, students in both sessions display incredible patience and effort.

To most people, competitive debating appears to be a relatively esoteric activity of little practical importance—after all, what is the point of arguing something that does not directly affect one’s life? Many seasoned debaters, however, would strongly disagree with that statement. Jeffrey Guo, a debater in grade 11, said that “Debate has opened [him] to so many different perspectives. Whether [he] is arguing about the abolishment of the Olympics or the US’s interventionist policy, [he] is always learning about how different people with different perspectives develop arguments.”

A common sentiment in the debate community is that competitive debating provides students a platform to express their beliefs without fear of prejudice. Through preparing arguments, researching facts, and refuting claims, debaters become equipped with a unique skill set that few activities offer. While debate may not display one’s physical prowess, it does allow students to find their voice and understand how the world function — skills they will need for the rest of their lives.

St. Georges has had great success in competitive debating. Since the program’s inception, students have been traveling nationally and internationally to debate against the world’s most talented debaters. Last March, the Creed’s very own Anthony Chu and Jason Guo won the Senior BC provincial debate tournament. The duo’s hard-work and preparation shone through their results and performance in the finals, where they debated in front of hundreds of observers. Jason admitted that they “spent many hours training for the tournament—researching current events, participating in mock debates, and polishing our speeches. However, we also understood that there is a fine line between being prepared and being over-prepared. “We made sure that we were still flexible and able to adapt our strategy to tackle unexpected cases.” Jason and Anthony’s provincial triumph are among the many accomplishments that the Saints debate club has accrued over the years. If you go back one year, Saints grad of 2019, Allan Lee, made Canada’s national debate team and represented his country at the Worlds Schools Debating Championships (WSDC), the most prestigious tournament in the world. All of these accomplishments are due to the students’ dedication and commitment to intellectual discourse; it is the culmination of hard work, rigorous training, and insightful mentorship.

Jason and Anthony after winning the BC Provincials Debating Championships

But what is more important than these achievements is the camaraderie of the debaters. Jeffery Guo, a debater in grade 11, said, “At first, I hesitated to join the debate team. But once I did join, I was surprised by the community and support network already present. The activity is filled with friendly and passionate individuals who motivated me to become a better debater. Since then, some of my best memories at Saints have been in debate, whether online or in-person.” These sentiments, shared by all of the club’s members, are why debate has been such a storied part of St. Georges. Without a doubt, the club has changed many students’ lives for the better, and it will continue to do so as long as its members remain passionate and dedicated.