My school’s debate club moves from strength to strength. We have won several local and regional competitions (including the British Schools Middle East, and equivalent World Scholar’s Cup debating), and offer opportunities to people of all abilities. Our first meeting last saw far more students turn up than before, and demonstrated our need for the students to take on leadership positions more than ever.
We have been an especially adhoc club – motions were created and shared on the spot with very good impromptu debate strategies devised. Now, this year, my vision is to create a rhythm of motions based on Newman’s Pros and Cons (originally published 1895!) with a few obvious edits. From these pre-existing motions, we want to the student leadership to source stimulus materials of similar categories, and perhaps to respond to world events as they occur.
It is always ideal to have staff who are passionate about debate and experienced in adjudication. Such staff are remarkably rare. My own experience starting debate in an Asian was rocky at best. Asked by four exceptional students to take them to a regional debate competition, I have no real guidance on how to adjudicate or plan a debate. Adjudicating in front of parents and coaches was initially daunting (and perhaps still is). Coming from a state school, I did not really debate.
Coming from a state school, I did not really debate except to be vexatious. It was only as a teacher that I took a firm interest in the opportunities available. Watching expert teachers adjudicate was especially useful. I recommend that to any teachers new to debating.
Our club ethos is clear: we need to be kind to beginners; we need to train the very able students to be able to develop skilled framings of their debates. If we achieve in these two aspects, I’ll be happy.
Our ambitions are to get mixed teams to debate each week, and to get those teams to record each other. Commentary etc should be offered. More on that to come.