• The Convergence

The Value of Debate

Commentary | Liang Tian

Debate is a sanctuary for people who are willing to open their hearts and eyes to fresh ideas. Indeed, it is only through quietly listening to how one’s opponent’s attacks unfold that one understands, most intuitively, how to demolish their argumentation.


But more importantly, after each round is over, there is often a humbling feeling that one has learnt more – every house brings rich insights to the table.


Through fiery exchanges with similarly-aged counterparts, one definitely can expect a volley of thoughts that challenge the limits of his or her intellectual comfort zone.


Undeniably, it is demoralising to be on the receiving end of ruthless destruction to one’s painstaking constructed argumentation.


But each round is an opportunity for one to improve exponentially.


From diffident stuttering to impeccable oration, debate also serves as the ultimate platform to boost one’s confidence exponentially for each participant learns they must steel themselves to win. In essence, Debate teaches one to let go of their fears, albeit the hard way.

As perhaps the liveliest intellectual sport, it is no wonder that debate appeals to people from all walks of life and with a kaleidoscope of experiences.


From light-hearted post-round chats to furious discussions of strategies for difficult motions, debaters keep abreast of pertinent issues that are embedded in our societal narrative today.

And when we speak the language of prominent social issues, talk of local politics is inevitable.


Aside from NUSPA, tournaments specially dedicated to the discussion of Singaporean politics are very rare. However, in my humble opinion, knowledge of local politics is crucial to the development of a debater’s skills.


This is because it is one of the fundamental aspects of a debater’s repertoire. It would be laughable if young debaters eloquently evaluate Aristotelian ideals, weigh out the outcomes of Brexit and examine the meaning of life, but are unable to do so for local affairs.


The imbalance is jarring because one would expect knowledgeable youths to be familiar with their home country’s politics since they are, firstly, directly impacted by it and, secondly, part of the narrative of change.


Indeed, it is opportunities like the NUSPA Debate Series that illuminate the value of learning and evaluating concerns of the heartland. The very knowledge and discussions of these problems at the NUSPA Debate Series prompts youths to read more, discuss more, and change their perspectives and actions.


Debate is the sport that bridges discourse and action; that moulds confidence and perspectives. One’s willingness to ditch their quiet comfort zones to step into the arena of debate necessarily grooms them into a kinder and worldlier person.



About the author: Liang Tian is a second-year Psychology major, French minor from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She is also a member of the NUS Debate Society. Other than debating, she adores reading, playing with cats and poems. She has currently embarked on a mission to cultivate organic cilantro in a flower-pot which, ignoring all past experience, will hopefully succeed.

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