Is debating suitable for my child?

People have a misconception that their children must suit a certain profile in order to be a successful debater. Parents often worry that their children are unable to perform in debates because they are too soft spoken, have a speech defect, are not proficient in the English Language, lack self-confidence etc. While there are certain traits that can help your child learn and improve quickly, these are not necessary for your child to succeed in this sport.

Debates are judged on 3 metrics, content, style and strategy.  Style is not judged based on how loud or pompous the speaker sounds; having a voice like Morgan Freeman or Barack Obama does not automatically make a speaker persuasive. Style or manner is judged based on how persuasively someone puts across the content within their speech according to an average reasonable person.

As debating becomes more popular as a sport globally, the global debate community has sought to make itself more equitable and inclusive to people of all backgrounds. There is an expectation and demand that judges do not discriminate against indelible characteristics and attributes including not only gender and race, but also language ability and accent. This means that the onus is on judges to understand and track down the speeches to the best of their ability instead of expecting the speaker to speak in a British or American accent. Debaters need to be understood by the average reasonable person. If your children can be easily understood in an everyday conversation with their peers, they will be able to debate.

We have also coached many foreign students who struggled with the English language initially as well as students who were quiet and unassuming when they first joined debate. In fact, I had only started learning English at the age of 7 because my parents dropped out of school early and were not proficient in the English language. All of the above mentioned challenges should not prevent your child from being a fearsome debater. In fact, debate is exactly the right activity for them to improve their English proficiency, speaking technique and self-confidence.

Another concern that parents often raise is that their child is not academically inclined and thus will not be able to succeed in what is considered an academic sport. This is simply untrue, Reuben and I have coached many neighbourhood schools to become champions of national debate competitions. We also have extensive experience helping financially needy students who struggle in school, such as running debate programs at Chinese Development Assistance Council. Regardless of whether or not your child is academically inclined, we will be able to help them gain the skills and knowledge necessary to compete at a high level.

At The Rhetoric Collective we use simple yet effective methods to enhance our students’ rhetorical prowess. There are a variety of tools and techniques we will employ to help your child improve their pronunciation, diction, range of vocabulary and presence as a speaker. Our curriculum is designed to include many drills and practices that each student will undergo in order for us to diagnose and eventually fix their stylistic struggles so that they can excel both on and off the debate arena.