Andrew Wheelhouse
Luton Sixth Form College

Debating Matters serves as my mental whetstone today as surely as when I sat quaking before my first qualifying round debate 6 years ago.

Law at St John's College, Cambridge
paralegal, Bates Wells Braithwaite LLP

The reason I keep returning to Debating Matters is because even as a ‘grown-up’ it continues to offer alumni something new and challenging. Listening to the debates is fascinating as there are always fresh and important topics up for discussion driven by what is going on in contemporary society at every level. Even now I have to think hard about the motion being put forward, which puts you at the same level as those who are debating, rather than floating above as some sort of ‘debating guru.’ It’s incredibly refreshing and as always, you engage with the ideas as well as the student.  It serves as my mental whetstone today as surely as when I sat quaking before my first qualifying round debate 6 years ago (the motion was, “Adults reading Harry Potter is simply infantile?” with the Luton Sixth Form College team at Queen’s School in Bushey. I was on fire that evening!)

The fact that the competition is constantly expanding is testament to its great reputation, and as alumni, we get to help build on that reputation by chairing, judging and organising different rounds. Since the entire DM office team could easily fit into a small broom cupboard you are given substantial responsibility and autonomy. Particularly at qualifying rounds there may not be anyone there from HQ to hold your hand and it’s down to you and the other alumni to make the event a success. It’s challenging and very satisfying when a round that you have been placed in charge of is a success. Incidentally one also gets the opportunity to travel around the country a lot, particularly to the regional finals, though I’m still waiting for my expenses paid trip to the Scottish regional final (hint, hint.) Judging is also great fun because as alumni, we know that the debates are at their best when the questioning is tough and you get the opportunity to really push the debaters.

Alumni are essential to the running of the competition but add something unique to it as well. I have been involved for the past 6 years, have had fun every time, and certainly see myself doing so in another 6 years.


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