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Lessons Learned from Debating
Written by Christie Park | Published. 2018.01.17 14:44 | Count : 514
Standing before the audience I felt my hands shaking in anxiousness. As I began talking, I could hear my voice waver and stutter. All of this was for a mere five minute book talk in front of my classmates. In a quiet and muffled voice, I spoke quickly enough to finish the speech in just two minutes. Then I came to the realization that although I may not have to give presentations in the future, my public speaking abilities affected my communication skills in social settings. I needed to change. This was my motivation to start debating.
[A photo of Jennifer Choi during debate practice taken by Christie Park on the 10th of January]
During the first debate meeting, I took my usual spot - the back corner. I hoped that by watching everybody speak, I could remotely sound like I knew what I was doing. But, when called up, I completely blanked out. The first speaker of the opposition, unlike me, demonstrated an unprecedented level of debating. It was paced yet clear and persuasive. Thus, I learned the presentational aspect of debating: confidence.
Afterwards, I was told to give a four minute speech opposing the motion "this house would ban hate speech." After two minutes of panicked talking, I nervously flipped through my index cards, pretending to have more to say. I squeaked out a few more awkward, incoherent sentences, wanting retreat back to my seat. That’s when I realized I needed to learn the structure and diction for the upcoming competition. 

After watching debate competitions at various universities, I learned that logical reasoning held the same weight as your confidence. Unfortunately, I reverted back to being a nervous wreck. I couldn't elaborate on my points, euphemized as “concise” and "straight to the point,” and I couldn't follow the argumentation I was presenting. Watching the opposition teams giving spontaneous, vivacious speeches in awe, I learned how to captivate the judge. 

For case building, I learned most from a teacher from whom I recently heard a lecture. The motion of which our team debated in opposition was, “this house would make universities free." By reasoning that there was no justification for those disadvantaged by birth lottery, we were not taking into account all social classes; we had approached the debate in the wrong direction. We should have instead focused on how tertiary education is becoming necessary and how government funding could solve detrimental problems in universities. With a logical argument about a given contention, although complicated, it tied back to the original point seamlessly. 

I found that I could find connections between the topics on which I would debate with other essays I would read. For example, debating on the government providing safe and free drugs tied into essays about rebellion. And decriminalization debates would also apply to topics such as prostitution. A philosophy essay was influenced by a debate on whether or not civil disobedience in democratic societies was justified and while writing it, I realized that my rationale had changed and that my essays were clearer.

It seems cliched to be writing about a school club helping me overcome lifelong hardships, but I am not alone. Jennifer Choi, another debate neophyte, states, “Debating helped me gain confidence; it is easier to talk in front of other people now. I used to get very nervous and avoided public speaking but debate is even fun now.”

Although debate continues to help me with presentation and speaking skills, it also takes conflicts affecting the society today and has us consider it from all perspectives along with any related social and economic repercussions. It strengthened my reasoning and gave me stronger opinions and arguments, ones I can discuss with others.



Christie Park 
Grade 9
Yongsan International School of Seoul

Christie Park  student_reporter@dherald.com

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