With its origins dating from the beginning of civilization, the art of debate has been inextricably intertwined with the concept of open society. In ancient Athens, citizens gathered in forums to discuss and debate the most pressing philosophical and political issues of the day before casting their votes. Indeed, it may be said that true democracy cannot exist without debate. For democracy to function as it should, the values that debate encourages, namely reason, tolerance and the careful weighing of evidence, must be valued and cultivated. Perhaps this is what French philosopher Joseph Joubert meant when he said: “It is better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.” This sense of a shared journey toward the truth brings debaters closer together, even when they represent opposing sides of an issue. In so doing, debate fosters the essential democratic values of free and open discussion.
At Roscommon Community College, we believe that the process of debate offers profound and lasting benefits for our students and for the community. With its emphasis on critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork, debate teaches skills that serve individuals well not only in school, but also in the workplace and as citizens of democratic societies. Once students have learned how to debate, they are better able to critically examine the pronouncements of their political representatives and to make informed judgments about crucial issues.
With this in mind, two of the English teachers at Roscommon Community College, Ms. Siobhan Cullen and Ms. Siobhan Tully, have established the Roscommon Community College Debating Society. A weekly lunchtime debate is held where a wide range of local and global topics are discussed, with the principal aim being to foster a greater understanding of contemporary issues, whilst encouraging a free and lively exchange of ideas. All interested students are invited to participate, or just to observe if they wish, and students enjoy coming together to debate the topical concerns of the day. Sometimes the debate is just for fun, however students are also engaging on a more competitive basis as they prepare to go to competition, with students currently competing at local, regional and national levels. Debate motions are frequently proposed by the students themselves, thereby making sure that the participants are at the center of the decision-making process, keeping motions relevant and of interest to the very students who will be debating on the issues at hand.
In a recent exciting departure for our school, Roscommon Community College was delighted to host the inaugural round of our very own “War of Words” debating competition which saw our home debating team take on our fellow GRETB school Elphin Community College. Roscommon Community College was ably represented by Michael Lough (Captain, 3rd Yr.), Macie Collins, Dean Cribbon and Luke Keane (All 3rd Yr.), while Gilbert Muldowney (Captain), Laura Muldowney, Hannah Macken and Conor Dorr gave an illustrious performance on behalf of the Transition Year students from Elphin. Proposing the motion “That Selfies are the Ultimate Form of Vanity”, the Roscommon Community College team gave a spirited performance on the day, highlighting throughout the course of their arguments the importance of effective communication skills, as well as critical and logical thinking. On the day, however, Elphin gave an exceptionally strong performance and the visiting team was victorious. RCC greatly anticipates however another chance to face Elphin, when we make the return trip to our sister school in November for the next leg of the “War of Words” challenge.
Sincere gratitude is extended to our adjudicators on the day Mr. John Flynn and Mr. Paul Casserly, without whom the event would not have been possible. Both adjudicators gave the utmost consideration to their duties, giving wonderful support and very constructive feedback to all participants. Thanks also to RCC student Sean Egan who contributed greatly to the proceedings in his dual role as both Chairperson and Timekeeper, keeping the large audience of RCC and Elphin supporters captivated at all times. Everybody concerned thoroughly enjoyed the good-humored repartee and banter, with all students in agreement that debating is certainly an exciting activity, guaranteeing not only great fun, but also a sustained rush of adrenaline!
“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress."
Both students and teachers at Roscommon Community College are already looking forward to the next highlight in our debating calendar which will see our school host the “Roscommon Herald County Schools’ Debate” in the coming weeks. This maiden event is kindly sponsored by the Roscommon Herald and will take place in RCC on Saturday, November 19th. We are pleased to announce that the debate will be chaired by our guest of honor Luke “Ming” Flanagan MEP, and the winning speakers will progress to the Semi Final stage of the Western Schools’ Debating Championship. We anticipate a great afternoons entertainment at RCC as we continue to encourage debate within our school community. Enabling our students to be more engaged citizens as they go on to actively participate in an increasingly dynamic society can only serve them well, as they take their place in meaningful discourse of a political and global nature. The art of public speaking is surely a life skill for all, as students learn to cooperate with others while simultaneously understanding opposing views. A super success story for all concerned and in the ever-changing world we live in, the art of debate is a tool that could not be more advantageous and timely!