Date of Publication: 24 October 2021
This year, Oxford Summer Courses partnered with Oxford Union to give a small group of students the unique opportunity to learn the art of debating, online, with one of our expert tutors.
Jessica was one of those students – and won the online debating competition which followed the end of the course. Hear about her experience of the course below.
To debate is to exercise control over your tongue, using your words to build up and not tear down. Our tongues hold the power to life and death; this is what proves that debating is not an innate skill but an acquired one. Through the Oxford Summer Courses in debating, I was challenged and refined in this art.
I have always enjoyed public speaking but had never tried debating. Although I knew how to get a point across, I struggled to express myself with influence and conviction. I had a growing desire to learn how to assert myself as a public speaker, knowing to adopt a stance and defend it with clear arguments and well-rounded speech. I chose to participate in this course to learn how to improve my confidence, critical thinking, and communication skills all while using this opportunity to engage with the world-leading Oxford Union.
The course far exceeded my expectations. As I interacted and connected with world-renowned debating experts, I found myself immersed in a world where persuasion was delicately interwoven in all forms of speech. I learned that it is what leads one to success or drives them to failure. In fact, this was one of the prominent points highlighted by my assigned tutor, Mitch Artman, through which the essence of debating was truly captured. Mitch had emphasized that argumentation is a daily endeavour. From talking your parents into letting you stay out late to discussing a grade with a teacher, all speech is persuasion; one’s ability to persuade listeners dictates the course of a conversation.
Mitch’s way of teaching was very personal. He advocated for my weaknesses seeing them as building blocks for eventual strengths all while nurturing and reinforcing pre-existing skill sets. He meticulously covered all “superficial aspects” of debate and instilled in me key qualities of a successful public speaker. Mitch also made sure to gradually reveal the strategies to be used in debate. In doing so, each given approach was embedded in my speech and practically applied throughout the competition.
I had never heard about British Parliamentary Style debate up until the beginning of the course. Any conceptions I had had were tossed out the window as I saw how structured debating truly is! I realized that it’s not about people just yelling at each other trying to get their points across, but it is a strategic, deliberate, and crafty philosophy according to which you can understand and manipulate both your opposing members and your audience. To learn the intricacies behind this art is to have acquired true discipline.
The debating competition itself was very nerve-wrecking. Since I had never been in a debate setting before, I didn’t know what to expect. The competition was truly an emotional rollercoaster. Before every speech, I would be nervous and shaky, barely able to manage my breathing; but the second I took a deep breath and began to speak, I articulated thoughts with confidence and truth, not on my own initiative but according to what I knew to be true. I found myself using a carefully structured blueprint to draw the given conversations in my favour.
I had never debated before but I am honoured and humbled to have won a debating competition at such a high level. It is not by power nor by might that one achieves greatness, but only through the Spirit of God.
Interested in finding out more about our online debating course in 2022? Register your interest here to be the first to hear more details.