Branksome Hall News

Branksome debate teams make their mark at two recent tournaments

As debate season kicks off, our student debaters have been attending competitions and making their mark.
Junior Debate Tournament
A first place win at the Junior Debate Tournament stirred up much excitement for Grade 9 student debaters Duo and Lillian. Competing against 44 different teams from four provinces, Duo and Lillian rose to the top and took home first place.

This was the first competition that Lillian competed in as part of a Branksome team and she said that she enjoyed the tournament. “The motions that we debated were easy to understand and were really relevant,” she said. “Since debate is so broad, there are many different styles that fall under the activity. From this tournament, I was able to learn a new style, CNDF (Canadian National Debate Format). This, in and of itself, is a takeaway since something I am always looking to do is expand my knowledge of debate as a whole.”

Led by Debate Coach Emma Taman, Duo and Lillian took initiative when preparing for the tournament, working hard to ensure they were ready.

“Duo and Lillian put a lot of effort into preparing for the event, and it is always exciting seeing the hard work of our debaters pay off,” said Ms. Taman. “It was such a joy to watch them compete in the finals, and it was wonderful to see the rest of the team cheering them on in our tournament group chat. The future of Branksome debate continues to look strong!”

With a first place win under their belts, both Lillian and Duo are excited to continue debating.

“I’m looking forward to attending more challenging tournaments in the future,” said Lillian. “To me, debate is more than just sharing opinions. Debate requires some level of basic and general knowledge, and then tying that to more complicated ideas, often with ties to logic or to real-world issues. Debate often teaches you to break down a complex motion into ‘stock’ arguments, which eventually come down to economic impacts, inequality, et cetera. This ability of analysis is crucial, and beneficial to many aspects of life, not just limited to debate.”

“Debating is more than just putting out arguments,” added Duo. “In addition to being prepared in what you already know, it also tests you to think on the spot. You have to engage with the opposing team’s arguments and refutation, all of which you do in the moment. As a debater, I look forward to continuing learning.”

Western University High School Tournament
Branksome also sent five teams to compete at the Western University High School Tournament on November 6 and 7. Grade 11 students Hao and Elizabeth competed as a team, finishing in fifth place out of 180, going all the way to the semi-finals.

“Sadly, they lost on a split decision,” said Debate Coach Grace Nolan. “But Elizabeth was the fifth best speaker and Hao was seventh best out of over 300 competitors.”

Hao really enjoyed how diverse the topics were at this competition and she appreciated the chance to try her hand at debating ideas such as economics (decentralized finances), international relations (Ukraine, Russia, and NATO), media (entertainment industry) and social issues (LGBTQ+ movement).

“I am passionate about debate because it has many transferable skills that can be applied to all aspects of life,” said Hao. “Debate has made me more aware of global affairs, as well as a stronger and more strategic communicator.”

Hao also enjoys the intellectual challenge of debate, which requires mastering the art of language and rhetoric, organization, strategy, critical thinking and current knowledge.

“It has fostered me to become comfortable with performing in highly stressful environments while simultaneously maintaining a professional poise,” she said. “Something I am working on is my mentality; essentially to not base my self-worth on speaker scores or ranking, which are highly arbitrary and subjective. Instead of focusing on these arbitrary and uncontrollable rankings, I have learned to focus my attention on objective standards for improvement, like the quality of my speeches or whether or not I improved a certain skill, like argumentation.”

Elizabeth shares the same passion for debate, and feels it gives her the chance to gather knowledge on different topics.

“I've always enjoyed learning more about the world around me, but what I enjoy the most is the gamified aspect of debate, where we have to be creative with how we apply that knowledge to win—there's a lot of strategy in debate in terms of how you engage with the other teams and how you position yourself in rounds that are necessary to win beyond simply having more knowledge,” said Elizabeth. “My debating experience has taught me to think about the contextual and systemic factors that affect certain groups, and the nuanced circumstances that may cause certain disparities within society, which I feel has helped me develop a better understanding of the world.”

Hao feels the skills she uses for debating are useful in many areas of life.

“I believe this is a mindset that would help me, as well as everyone else, to be a more motivated and self-aware learner in environments like school and in life, not necessarily just in debate.”

Ms. Nolan is proud of the efforts and success of both teams.

“It is absolutely fantastic to see Branksome students continue to excel in debate and public speaking,” she said. “Both the teams of Duo and Lillian and Hao and Elizabeth were successful this weekend because they exemplified the best traits of debaters in general and Branksome debaters in particular: critical thinking, dedication and, most importantly, teamwork.”

Congratulations to all of our debaters!
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