ALUMNI

Caitlín Comins
Graveney School

Debating Matters has provided me with the confidence to express my ideas and views within any context and feel that what I have to say is valued.

COMPETITION YEAR
2011
CURRENTLY
Camberwell College of Art

My Debating Matters experience has been truly remarkable and inspiring. I began debating in Year 10 when I insisted upon joining the school debating society two years early because one of my peers had joined and we liked to argue. We had a tendency to reduce our GCSE biology class to silence with our ‘discussions’, which were ultimately a contest of who could talk the loudest for the longest until the other backed down. Though this was not really in line with the spirit of debating, with the aid of an inspiring, supportive teacher and regular practice, I learnt what it was really about. I realised how important it was to have strong research and a full understanding of all the angles of an arguments before drawing my own judgement. I also learnt to respect points within my opposition’s argument even if I didn’t agree with them. A couple of years later I took on the role of ‘Chief Poster Maker’ for the Graveney School debating society, which allowed me to combine my love of art and debating. Whilst the participants fluctuated a core group emerged, as we got to know one other better we learnt each other strengths and weakness, and began to form a dynamic team and good friends.

For me, Debating Matters took debate out of the classroom and put it into a relevant, lively and, at times, admittedly intimidating environment. The style of the competition and the panel of judges enabled me to push my arguments further then I thought possible. As we went through the competition I found I became more willing and less afraid to push the argument to the extreme and to not back down. The 2012 National Final was an unforgettable experience and, whilst I will never forget the gut wrenching nerves I felt before my final debate, I will also never forget the electrifying experience that is pushing your argument to its conclusion and successfully winning the debate.

Debating Matters has provided me with the confidence to express my ideas and views within any context and feel that what I have to say is valued. It has enabled me to meet people I would never have otherwise come into contact with, including Joseph Stiglitz and the many interesting people involved with the competition. It has also opened up opportunities such as speaking at the London Festival of Education that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. My continued involvement with the competition, through the alumnus programme, has proved incredibly rewarding and exciting. Each round brings a new challenge and something unexpected, whether it is chairing my first debate or being invited to judge.

This year, between helping out at Qualifying Rounds, stained glass night class and working at a bar, I have been studying one of my other great interests: art. The concepts I’ve learnt from Debating Matters - to question everything - have proved invaluable. My debating background has helped in numerous arguments surrounding the importance of art in 21st century Britain, the relevance of contemporary art and the future of Arts education in Britain.

Debating matters is an extraordinary competition that provides young people with an opportunity to express their ideas, and to be taken seriously. For me it has been an invaluable experience; I hope to continue my involvement with the competition in the coming years, and would encourage anyone with an interest in debating to just get involved!

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