Debate Club - What's it all about?

For those of you new to debate club (and for old hands, a reminder), here is some information. Don’t feel you need to digest it all if you’re new - it’s a bit of an information overload, and rather like cricket it only makes sense once you’re playing the game. 


Remember, you don’t have to do any of these things - it’s all about what you choose to enjoy and develop yourself as a debater/speaker at your own pace.


There are three main things we do at Debate Club. The teens groups tend to be more focused on debating itself, and in the 9-12s it’s more of a mix.


Thing 1: Debating


People take sides on a serious or silly point of view, and come up with the most convincing arguments they can while attempting to defeat the arguments of the other side. Some of the ones we’ve had in the past...


… the hole in a donut is part of the donut.

… nobody should climb Everest any more.

… parents should get an extra vote to cast on their children’s behalf.

… circles are superior to squares.

... does US democracy have a longer past than its future?

... is nuclear power a force for good?

... can you love a brick?

... do adults have more freedom than children?

... should we continue to spend on space exploration?

…and a recent favourite, “This house believes anything you can say with words, you can say without them,” which featured debating in the medium of illustrations!


We have a mix of debates where people have asked to be speakers in advance and less formal Argumentag debates in which everyone can argue on either, or sometimes both sides of the debate (forcefully disagreeing with yourself can be good fun. Sometimes someone who wants a full-on argumentative workout asks to do a “Press Conference” where they defend a point of view and then the rest of the group challenge them to bat back difficult questions, and you can also enjoy “Grudge Match,” in which you all gang up on the facilitator.

If you have a topic you think would make a good debate, email it or bring it along. We can’t include all suggestions but are keen to hear them. Remember, it's all "challenge by choice," you can get stuck in very quickly as a main speaker in a debate, or find your feet by making a few points in an open debate.


Thing 2: Speak of the Week


Each week we have a different theme for some short, light-hearted speaking. We’ve had toasts, rants, excuses, introducing ourselves as new additions to the list of Ancient Greek gods, sharing the thoughts of objects from around the house.... After I’ve given a demo based on someone’s suggestion, everyone who wants to takes a minute to get ready and then does their thing. It is both more and less crazy than it sounds!


Thing 3: Roles


These are a range of types of speaking that give everyone a chance to amuse, inform or befuddle an audience. Some have been devised by members of the club, which is always developing. You’re welcome to pick one of these to do the first time you come to the club, or you can watch others or join in when you like.


Wordmonger – Provides a word of the day, with definition and an example of the word being used. The challenge to the rest of the club is to smoothly include the word of the day into their speaking, imitating how a good speaker will refer to previous speakers at an event to build a sense of community.


Didyouknowist– Offers a fascinating fact, historic, scientific, statistical or other. Something surprising or obscure that might be useful. “Did you know…” We almost certainly didn’t!


Joker– “It’s the way you tell ‘em.” Your joke doesn’t need to be original. It can even be a real “dad joke”/Christmas cracker groan-inducer. The point is to “sell” your joke by telling it with confidence. To up the challenge, you could tell a short series of connected jokes, a funny story, or even prepare a few minutes of stand-up comedy. (It goes without saying but no racist, placist, sexist or any other -ist jokes, please.)


Riddler – poses a riddle or puzzle for the rest of us to guess 


Quote Quoter – Gives us some words of wisdom from a famous or not so famous person. You can expand on the quotation if you like, to say what it means for you, or to tell us about the person you are quoting. 


Statistician – Gives us an illuminating numerical fact, preferably with some sort of illustrative comparison such as, “three times the size of Wales/ a blue whale” etc.


Good Newscaster– Fuels our optimism with a positive news report on something good happening somewhere the world.


Pollster– Finds an interesting or revealing question that has featured in a poll or survey and sees what members of our club think before revealing how we compare to the wider population.


Fishmonger– Tell us something we didn’t know about an aquatic creature, the more peculiar the better


WinnerSpinner - About the only role reserved for someone who has attended a block of sessions before, so that they know the spirit of the club. This role involves listening carefully to all the speakers in a debate, giving some constructive feedback and then declaring the winning side, based on the quality of the speeches, one way or the other. It’s good practice in listening as well as tact and eloquence.


Magician– Befuddle us with your sleight of hand as you perform a magic trick before our eyes. Or at least, our zoom screens.



Major Roles


These *ed roles lend themselves to a more substantial bit of speaking that may take more preparation, and are a good challenge if you have already done several of the other roles. If we have a rush of people wanting to do such roles all in the same session, we might need to hold some over.


Ranter – Shares their annoyance with something, serious or trivial, and use the powers of language to convince us to be as outraged as you are.


Booster – The opposite of a ranter. Share why something is the best thing since sliced bread (or even your enthusiasm for sliced bread itself). 


Storyteller – Tells a true story from their own life or that of someone close to them. It can be funny, touching or inspiring.


Mythologist– Tells a story from myth, legend, fable, fairytale or tradition. Anything that has an identifiable author is ruled out for this role: the first teller of the myth must be missing in the mists of time. 


Explainer – Takes a complicated idea or event and explains it in a way that is interesting and clear for everybody to understand.


Inspirer – Tells a true and inspiring story of a real person and what they invented, discovered, achieved or overcame.


Obituarist - Share the unusual or impressive life of someone who has recently died. They might be a performer, and inventor, a business mogul, or someone who has done amazing work in the community. Newspapers and news generally mention anyone particularly impressive. 


Stillaliverist - As above, but this is a chance to celebrate such people while they are still alive!


Reader – Could be a poem, an extract from a short story, an eye-witness account from history. The challenge here is to make the words your own and keep a connection with your audience even as you perform somebody else’s words – so preparation is important.