“Debate is amazing!”
This was a common theme throughout our conversation with Palesa Mojapelo, one of the student leaders who participated in the Cornell-Pearson Debate Workshop held in 2016 and 2017 at the Pearson Institute of Higher Education (PIHE) in Johannesburg, South Africa. As one of top debaters in the program, Palesa was awarded a scholarship to attend the Cornell International Summer Debate Camp in Ithaca, New York as a debate teaching fellow for two summers.
As an experienced debater in high school, Palesa (or PK for short) eagerly shared why she wanted to get involved in collegiate debating and her experience, the skills and lessons she has learned from her debate training and how she hopes to spread speech and debate to more students in South Africa.
Can you share with how you became involved with speech and debate?
PK: Public speaking and debate has been a part of life for a long time. In primary school, I enjoyed speaking publicly, and in grade 7, I had the opportunity to represent my province in a public speaking competition. I attended two high schools in Johannesburg and both of them did not have debate programs. I am a self-professed go-getter so I went to my teachers and the school administrators to drum up support. I was successful in establishing a debate club in both schools, and then also had the opportunity to debate in inter-city championship tournaments. I
Given your experience with debate in high school, what motivated you to sign up for the Cornell-Pearson Debate Workshop?
PK: I really enjoyed my time at the Cornell-Pearson Debate Workshop. I saw it being advertised during orientation week and it felt like the right decision. There was no debate program at PIHE and I felt that it would be a good platform to learn university debate. I had also heard about Cornell’s debate program and this was also a motivation to attend the workshop – to see if I was as good as I hoped I was.
And what was your experience with the workshop?
PK: It was wonderful. Especially to see a group of other PIHE students like myself so interested in building this critical set of skills. What I enjoyed most about the program was that it really showed me how much debate was. Throughout the workshop, we played a lot of games that activated critical thinking. I normally expect debates and debate training to be formal and structured; however, the discussions and activities we had with Sam, the Cornell coaches and students really showed me how fun debate could be and we could apply the debate and persuasive communication principles and techniques to address everyday situations. I also heard Desmond Tutu’s quote, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument,” for the first time at this workshop – that affected me and it’s something I strive to bring to the students in a debate club that I coach and mentor at a local high school.
PK: Debate is amazing! It has really helped me with being more persuasive and more confident; It also helped with my presence and taught me not to be easily intimidated by my opponents. I am better able to tackle and address a problem and look at it from different perspectives. I think debate also heped me be open and friendly with others, to articulate well and to teach others. It has had a great impact on me.
What advice would you give to students who are new to debate?
PK: My advice for students who have never had debate experience before – try it before you can judge it. Debate offers opportunities to challenge yourself and it creates a great environment for self-development and opening your perspective about the world. The thing that I learned through my experience working with the Cornell debate program is that debate can be fun – it’s not a war of words, but an exchange of knowledge. This is important when we leave the classroom environment.
Debate is amazing!
Cornell Speech & Debate Society, in partnership with Pearson Education, sponsored and hosted summer debate workshops held on the campus of Pearson Institute of Higher Education in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the course of program, Sam Nelson (Senior Lecturer, ILR/Director, Cornell Speech & Debate) and coaches and students of the Cornell Speech & Debate Society trained and coached students in the art and technique of argumentation and debate culminating in a debate tournament.
To learn more about how Cornell Speech & Debate Society can help you and your team advance argumentation, debate and persuasive communication skills, please e-mail Ming Shiao, Outreach Director, Cornell Speech & Debate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wrapping up another great high school summer debate camp this year with over 12 countries represented! Stay tuned for news about the 2018 program!
The Worlds squad had a busy spring break, participating in the Colgate Open on the 1st and 2nd of April, and then in the HWS Round Robin on the 8th and 9th of April.
Of the 6 teams participating in the Colgate Open, 4 teams broke to elimination rounds. The team of Sarah Karkoura and Ajay Kunapuli made it to Novice Finals, while the teams of Brittany Garcia and Denny Lee, and Daniel Stoyell and Rebecca Blair made it to Open Quarterfinals. In addition, the team of Adnan Muttalib and Enting Lee made it to Open Finals.
Cornell also picked up speaker awards at Colgate: in the Open category, Enting was 3rd speaker and Adnan 4th, and in the Novice category, Aniroodh Ravikumar was 3rd speaker, Denny Lee was 5th speaker, Sarah was 6th and Tony was 8th.
Adnan and Enting then traveled to Geneva, NY for the HWS Round Robin, a tournament which features the top 16 tournaments in the world. Beating teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and the International Islamic University of Malaysia, Adnan and Enting advanced to the finals of the tournament. They were also 6th and 4th speakers respectively.