Critical thinking skills, preparation through research, articulate speech and public speaking expertise are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lifetime benefits we can gain from debating. Here we talk to some of Shanghai’s top young debaters who provide their insights into joining school debate clubs, while also sharing their most memorable experiences.
To give our readers a comprehensive picture of these great debaters, we speak with Nisthula and Xixi, who are both from Shanghai United International School, Gubei Campus.
Can you tell us how you became interested in debating?
Nisthula: As a young child, I was raised in an environment with people passionate about debating. My grandmother, who is highly involved with political activities, was the one to foster my initial interests towards this activity.
Xixi: When I was in Grade 6, one lunch time we gathered at the school gates to see a few seniors off. They were heading to Yale for the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions. One of the teachers said to them “We are counting on you guys!” I was fascinated by the idea of representing the school at Yale University in the US for an international academic competition, so I joined the World Scholar’s Cup in Grade 7. As soon as I started it, I loved it. By Grade 8, my team and I traveled to Bangkok, Hanoi and Yale for week-long competitions. I met so many incredibly talented students who were my age, from all over the world. Moreover, debating itself is rewarding – it has improved both my public speaking and critical thinking skills.
The World Scholars Cup Team that you are in just went to Yale University to compete in the tournament of champions, what was the result and did you enjoy the journey?
Nisthula: This trip was one of the most rewarding tournaments. It ranged from sleepless nights, to being surrounded by the most inspiring and motivating people, it was exhilarating. My teammate and I successfully won all the three debates, and individually I was part of the top 30 writers and 100 debaters. In addition, our school received a total of 100 plus medals, and sent its largest delegation ever.
Xixi: I really enjoyed the journey. It was exhausting but also very rewarding. I felt like all the hard work I put into the competition has paid off. I earned six individual medals and two team awards, which was the best I have ever achieved at Yale.
Are you going to any tournaments this year?
Xixi: Last November, I competed in the Asian Parliamentary Debate Championship for the first time and I really enjoyed it, so I am planning to do that again nextsemester. It is a debate competition in British Parliamentary (BP) style. My teammate and I made it to the top 16 and it was our first attempt in BP style debating. Hopefully, next year we can achieve even better results.
Nisthula: I am planning on attending a few debate tournaments besides World Scholars Cup, such as the Asian Parliamentary Debate Competition and Harvard MUN. Moreover, a few football and singing competitions are on the list as well…if my IGCSE life approves.
How do you think you can benefit from joining a debate club?
Nisthula: I think, besides gaining essentials skills such as team work, confidence and effective communication, joining any debate club helps give a wider perception of the world we live in, while also emphasizing the resemblances among the various areas and its
Do you remember a topic or tournament that you aced?
Xixi: When I was in Grade 8, our team went to the World Scholars Cup Global round in Bangkok. I did very well, especially in one debate on whether we should replace the jury with artificial intelligence. The judges were pleased with my performance and I was selected as one of the debaters in the Debate Showcase that year. It was a memorable experience.
Do you have any advice or tips that you can give to your fellow debaters?
Nisthula: Often during debates you will get a stance completely opposed to your own individual values and beliefs, which restricts you from constructing a solid argument. The trick here is to simply forget who you are and think from a debater’s perspective, even if you don’t agree.
Xixi: Just keep practicing! Practice talking to yourself in the mirror or filming yourself as you talk. Then watch the video to improve your body language, your tone and practice coming up with convincing arguments quickly as well as elaborating on them. Debating is a skill that gets better and better the more you do it.
Xixi Lei and Nisthula Rajesh are both in Grade 10 at Shanghai United International School, Gubei Campus.