by Bonnie Moore, Grade 12
The morning of the BC Provincial Debate Championships, I awoke in complete darkness after having been unconscious for almost five hours, with a flight to catch in half an hour and an opposition speech still to write. I hopped aboard a Harbour Air float plane bound for downtown Vancouver and raced through traffic to the day’s opening round. I arrived ten minutes before the debate began, and in a flurry of anxious excitement compared notes with my comrade-in-arms Chris Groot. Our arguments agreeing, we launched into the issue on the table: Be it resolved that restorative justice should play a major role in the Canadian Justice system.
Immediately the challenge to Side Proposition (who was in favour of Restorative Justice) was to define the argument. Throughout the course of the morning the definitions heard ranged from the cautious (Restorative Justice is only to be used for first-time non-violent offenders at the discretion of his/her judge) to the ridiculous (Restorative Justice is to be used for all offenders in addition to a criminal trial and jail time and regardless of repentance). The argument followed the major themes of recidivism, victim involvement, and financial practicality. Travelling from room to room throughout the course of the morning was the notorious Mr. Young, who had brought the SMUS debate team to the mainland the day before like a mother hen with so many chicks.
Toting a camera and words of encouragement, Mr. Young represented the glue holding together the divided senior and junior sides of SMUS’s debating duos. Representing SMUS alongside Chris and me were the stunningly brilliant junior team of Riley Erickson and Joseph Svorkdal. After completing two morning rounds debating both sides of the resolution, the tournament broke for lunch. Gathered in the crowded cafeteria of Walnut Grove Secondary School, a racket filled the air as dozens of teams shared their stories from the morning and shared speculations as to the impromptu topic which was due to be announced.
Debaters were given roughly twenty five to prepare for the afternoon’s rounds. After a lengthy explanation of rules, regulations, exceptions to aforementioned rules, and any other questions from the crowd, a representative of the planning committee announced the impromptu topic for the afternoon: this house believes that social media is good for society.
Immediately questions began circulating. Is goodness net effect or relative to other causations? What is society? What are the restrictions to ‘social media’? Most teams interpreted ‘social media’ as any online information transfer, accessed through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Other extended the terms to include blogs, forums, comments posted to articles, and online news networks. The issues discussed ranged from globalization to the destruction of privacy. Chris and I whipped through two rounds of speaking on our feet and the constant back-and-forth exchange of points of information. Similar to combating a many-headed monster armed with only two rubber bands and a thumb tack, debating is an intellectual challenge more than a display of force of character. Although presentation often determines speaker rankings, the quality of a debate itself is entirely reliant on the perspectives and points raised by introspective thought.
The challenge of course is to gain insight into the heart of a social issue in the space of a few seconds between your opponent’s speech and your rebuttal. By three o’clock Chris and I had completed our rounds and it was time for me to hit the highway running to make my flight back to Victoria and into the orchestra pit for My Fair Lady. The results had not yet been released, although the ceremonial announcement of speaker scores was scheduled for later that evening after an independent public speaking competition. After Eliza had returned to Henry Higgins’s study for the final time, I received a text message from Chris letting me know that Riley Erickson and Joseph Svorkdal had placed third overall in the province, but he and I wouldn’t be advancing to the next stage of competition.
The close of the Championships marked the last major event in the debating world until next year. However, the relief at not facing more sleepless nights or rushed speeches was tinged with sadness, as this was my last experience debating on SMUS. I hope to see our school’s debate program continue to grow next year without the guiding light of Chris Groot’s extensive experience and cleverness, as he too will be graduating this June. Keep your eyes peeled for the next generation of greats; Jacob and Jasper of the Middle School Debate Club will be stepping up to bat next year.