The Cambridge University schools debating competition is one of the largest and most prestigious debating competitions in the world. Hundreds of schools take part in different regional rounds around the UK whilst countries around the world hold their own competition to find their best school team to send to Cambridge for the final. The format is always the same: teams of two are told what the motion is, which side of it they need to argue, and they’re given just 15 minutes to prepare their speeches, with no access to the internet or other sources of information to help them.
Three weeks ago a team from Christ College composed of Mark G. and Tomos F. competed in a regional round where they debated with other schools for over 8 hours. They fought off 52 other schools to get a place in the final, which took place in Cambridge last Saturday. At the final they found themselves up against 64 teams, not only from the elite independent schools in the UK – Eton, Harrow and Westminster – but also the best teams from the Philippines, Korea, Senegal, Hong Kong and Canada, all of whom who had travelled to Cambridge for a single day of debating.
All the teams at this point were of the very highest quality; not only does each competitor need to posses a knowledge of the key social, cultural and political issues of our day, they need to display the intellectual agility to argue positions that they may feel is completely contrary to their own beliefs.
The day was one where Christ College displayed not only those qualities but a quiet determination to learn and develop after each round. In the first debate the team were required to argue against a motion that would see the exam grades of independent school pupils capped in comparison to their state school counterparts, which would make it harder for pupils like yourselves to get the top grades to get into university. Although they argued well and felt strongly about the unfairness of such a policy, the boys wound up in fourth place. Undeterred, they listened to the feedback of the judges, adapted their technique, and in the second debate, in which they were required to argue that international sporting events such as the Olympics should have a permanent host country, they came in first place. Success in this round, meant that they were on equal points with Eton.
Another two debates followed and whilst they did not win the day, the boys represented the school in the best possible fashion. Getting to the final itself was a significant achievement, but they bested that achievement by conducting themselves with an integrity and generosity of spirit . Well done boys.
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