Why do I debate?

From the day I decided to audition for the debate club, people have been asking me one question in particular. The question being, “Why?”

For the first few years, while I was still in school, the why was followed by a general curiosity that compared debating with every other extracurricular activity out there. They begged me to give a reason as to why out of a myriad of options I could have opted for to invest my time in and put on my resume, why did I choose Debate.

The curious case of the “Why”

As I grew up and entered university life, the question became more complicated. This “why” was now followed by the need for a justification about my urge to continue a hobby that does not give me any remuneration in the present and will never translate into a career.

“I do it because I love it “

My parents, my friends, my faculties, my superiors, all of them wanted to know why I spend every weekend going to debate tournaments , why I spend my weekdays researching, why I spend my hard-earned money to travel to a distant land just to lose one more time to people who are far better than me at this ECA that will not help me put food on the table.

Here’s why

Contrary to popular belief, debating does not represent a scenario where you scream and shout at your opponent. It also is not just an extracurricular activity. It is a way of life. If you start debating, and if you take it seriously and not just for the certificate, you will realize how little you really know about the world around you. And how little you understand the logic behind the actions of individuals.  

I enjoy being informed

When you start to debate, you start reading the news. You don’t just stop at one article about how American elections were rigged. You read the follow-up article on the issue. And then you read a follow up on the follow-up article. You might initially start doing this because you want to win debates, but eventually, you come to enjoy it. You will enjoy being informed. You will enjoy when someone will sit across you with all their attention trying to oppose your view of the society. The thrill of the chase for making your opinion stand out from a room full of people eager to express theirs is what will keep you going.

The appeal of awareness

Debating will force you to be aware of issues that you otherwise wouldn’t have cared about. You know global warming is a problem but when you have to win a debate, knowing global warming is a problem isn’t enough. You will have to read up on how governments and corporations around you have been trying to dismiss the idea of global warming. It is at this point when you start questioning your action. Debating will always challenge you to come up with compelling arguments for both sides of the story. And as you try to find a reason to argue for a cause that you detest is when you start to understand the actions of people around you.

I learned how to handle myself better

Debating will not only make you a more informed and responsible individual, but it will also teach you to not crumble under pressure. When you get a topic just 15 minutes before a round starts and you need to come up with an airtight case for or against the topic, you learn to cope up with pressure. And then when you lose even after trying so hard, that’s when debate teaches you to accept failure. And when you decide to take one more chance to show everyone that you are capable of constructively criticizing their opinions, that’s when debate teaches how to succeed despite countless failures.

I made friends

But it is not just the immaterial life lessons. Debate gives you lifelong friendships too. As you start doing tournaments nationally and internationally, you will end up meeting people who will end up becoming your friends for life. But I know that’s not good enough a reason for you either.

Not just an intellectual facade

So finally, the last myth about debating, the idea is debate doesn’t help you put food on the table is absolutely wrong. Debating is valued highly in not just your college or university applications to get you scholarships but it is weighted heavily on your resume. Whenever you are applying for any job that requires you to communicate with clients or stand your ground in negotiations or know your way around people, having experience in debating is highly appreciated.

Don’t get me wrong, debating is fun for sure. But it is extremely difficult too. It requires dedication, it requires patience, it requires you to make sacrifices that perhaps no other ECA or hobby would force you to make. But then again, debating isn’t like all the other ECAs. Because it is not an ECA. It’s you choosing to be part of a community that will shape you to become responsible, a community that will make you reflect on your actions, a community that will empower you to make brave decisions that others can’t make because they haven’t had to stand in front of an auditorium filled with people and argue about how excruciating child labour is or how important the Sundarbans are for us and no amount of economic incentive can triumph that. It’s a support system that will help you help others.

So, if you want to be heard because you have so much to say, Debating might just be the community for you. Oh, and a pro tip for if and when you do decide to embrace this lifestyle and they ask you “Why?”, I am sure you won’t get a 900 words long article to explain it to them. So, just say what I say-

“I do it because I love it ”

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