Inevitably, the wide range of extracurricular activities that Eton prides itself on providing have been restricted by the confines of a national lockdown. In many cases, boys and Masters have been able to find means of circumventing the barriers that have divided us. Under the supervision of JDH, debating is one activity that has in fact managed to expand its scope after the school’s transition to digital media.
Debating now regularly takes place using online video and audio platforms such as Skype and Zoom. Weekly sessions are run for any boy who wishes to attend and are recommended for anyone who wishes to take it up debating seriously or casually. Meanwhile, Eton’s Debating Squad is now able to enter international competitions, facing off against teams from three other continents so far in various tournaments. As one boy puts it, “with a surge in online competitions, we have had the chance to attend international competitions we previously couldn’t, giving us a fantastic opportunity to meet and debate with a diversity of people.”
So far, our squad has thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and we’ve brought back some awards as proof! We won an American tournament attended by the national teams of 10 different countries, we reached the semi-finals of the Canadian National Competition, and placed eight at the China World Schools Debating Competition. The boys on the squad and their coach, Brian Wong, have been able to regularly organise practice sessions against national teams from a dozen countries, arguing motions on subjects from the Coronavirus pandemic, to facial recognition technology, to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act.
Debating today is more accessible than ever for anyone who wishes to join. A mentorship programme, a free online debating website and an inter-house competition are all ideas currently being developed to allow as many as possible to master the art of the argument.