Friday, 21 April 2017 06:27

Swift Current debaters achieve success at provincials

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Swift Current Comprehensive High School students Sara Cronan (at left) and Harshini Arumugam competed successfully at the Saskatchewan Elocution and Debate Association provincials. Swift Current Comprehensive High School students Sara Cronan (at left) and Harshini Arumugam competed successfully at the Saskatchewan Elocution and Debate Association provincials.

Debate activities within the Swift Current Comprehensive High School (SCCHS) Business Club only started a year ago, but students have already achieved success on the provincial stage.


Initially four students participated in debate activities, but 10 students competed actively in a number of competitions during the current school year and the school also hosted a Saskatchewan Elocution and Debate Association (SEDA) tournament in December.
“We just did some initial stuff last year,” SCCHS business education teacher Cindy Lowe said. “We started getting our feet wet, and then this year we decided to go full out competition.”
Two teams from the SCCHS Business Club qualified to compete at the SEDA provincials, which took place at Winston Knoll Collegiate in Regina, March 4. They won silver and bronze in the high-school novice category.
“The two other debates we’ve done they placed in the top five individually and per teams,” she said. “So I figured they’ll do well. I knew going in we were ranked second and fifth, so I was hoping for the top three finish. So to get both teams in the top three was excellent.”
According to Lowe, only one point separated the second place Swift Current team from the Luther College High School team in first place, and there was just a difference of four points between the two Swift Current teams.
The team of Harshini Arumugam and David Camarador placed second, while Sara Cronan and Eljay Dungca finished in third place.
“It was amazing because we got third at our last two tournaments,” Arumugam said. “We worked really hard and it paid off, we got second place. So we’re really happy at that.”
The debate format at provincials was different than at the other debate competitions, and it was more intense.
“At the other tournaments it was either we were doing just prepared speeches or we were doing just impromptu debating, but at this one we had to do two prepared rounds and we had to do two impromptu rounds,” she explained. “The impromptu rounds mean that we only have 30 minutes to prepare and the prepared speech means that we get a good month to prepare for the debate.”
It can be quite a challenge to prepare for an impromptu debate within 30 minutes, especially if it is not a familiar topic.
“Mostly we have to remind ourselves first that everyone is on the same playing field as us,” she said. “So they have the same amount of information that we do, unless they’ve done specific research in that study beforehand. … You have to work really well with your partner, that’s the big thing, just to be able to bounce ideas off each other to make sure things sound good.”
Cronan has a good understanding with her debate partner, which made a difference during the debate competitions.
“We think alike and we know our strengths and weaknesses as a team, and we just work with that,” she mentioned. “We just work very well together and we match up pretty good.”
She is happy with her team’s third-place finish at provincials, especially because there were more teams than at previous competitions.
“We were kind of surprised, but also happy with ourselves that we got that with provincials with more teams to go against,” she said.
Another challenge at provincials was that they were debating for the first time against some teams.
“We didn’t know who we were going against,” she said. “For the other debates we did, we knew their strengths and weaknesses and where to poke holes in their debate.”
The topic for the prepared speech at provincials was: This house believes Canada should prioritize visible minorities when appointing judges. The topics for the impromptu debates were: This house believes that Regina and Saskatoon should be sanctuary cities, and this house supports presumed consent for organ donation in Saskatchewan.
According to Lowe these topics presented quite a challenge to the teams that competed in the novice category.
“It was a long day for them,” she said. “They had to do two full prepared speeches, one for and one against, and then two full rounds of impromptu, which are just draining, and the topics were fairly hard.”
She started the SCCHS Business Club three years ago. She decided to make the debate a part of that club because she could not co-ordinate the activities of two clubs at the same time and it works well to include debate with the other activities of the business club.
“Business is very much about communication and public speaking,” she said. “It’s very much a natural fit for the kids in the business club and in debate because business is often about persuasive speaking and about get a clear message across, and confidence in front of an audience.”
The debate competitions also add another component of competitiveness to the activities of the business club.
“We only otherwise have a competition for the business students in May,” she said. “So it’s kind of a long year to just get prepared for one competition at the end of the season. In this way it adds an exciting element of competition throughout the year.”
Last December the SCCHS Business Club hosted a SEDA debate competition in Swift Current and Lowe is looking forward to hosting another debate at the school in November.
“We had 45 judges last year and 30 moderators,” she said. “So we’ll be looking for another 80 to 100 volunteers to run it. … It was such a success here and the students really got energized to do debate and to be part of it.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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