Organisation to revive secondary school debates

Dunedin secondary school pupils will be able to debate until they are blue in the face with the establishment of a new debating organisation in the city.

Dunedin Schools' Debating (DSD) co-founder and chairwoman Suzanne Robins said DSD arose from the ''long-term frustration'' of pupils and coaches, and focused on providing an ongoing schedule of debates for secondary pupils in Dunedin and Mosgiel.

Ms Robins said the committee formed to organise events was based on co-operation between local secondary debating coaches and representatives of the Otago University Debating Society.

The initiative aimed to challenge and extend teenagers who were keen to stretch their thinking and build their analytical thinking and persuasive speaking skills, she said.

''We can be proud that our Otago University debating team recently reached the finals in the world debating championships.

''I can tell you, as the former coach of Keiran Bunn and Alex Dawson - the highest placed pair - and the other two ex-Logan Park High School debaters who helped form the six-person squad, that when they were at school, they were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for challenging, competitive debate.''

Inter-school debates were organised in the past and there were some debating opportunities within the school, Ms Robins said.

However, the only ''recognised, high-stakes debating event'' was the Russell McVeagh debating competition, which was focused on selecting a regional team to represent Otago in a national competition.

''While this is a fine event, it was over in one weekend for everyone, except those chosen for the regional team.

''Most Dunedin schools have been in the same position and, in some, the culture of debating has died away almost completely.

''This is a great pity, as students have been denied the stimulation, fun and thinking opportunities that are central to debating.

''We are keen to revive a culture of debating in Dunedin, and hope this is the first step.''

Ms Robins said the ongoing schedule of competition would involve three styles of debate - prepared, advised topic and semi-prepared.

All debates would be adjudicated by members of the Otago University Debating Society, and the ongoing programme of debates would be hosted by Columba College (seniors) and Logan Park High School (juniors) on Wednesdays, she said.

An open day will be held this Saturday at Columba College for juniors (8.30am-12.30pm) and seniors (1.30pm-5.30pm).

-john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Moot Hall

Splendid move. Skills of advocacy and gainsaying are on their way back.

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