Debating at Dollar

Debating is a popular, long-standing and successful co-curricular activity at Dollar. Mr McFadyean explains more about the two dimensions of Debating at Dollar, and some significant recent success, in the article below.

Debating at Dollar has two dimensions. On the one hand, there is the weekly Wednesday meeting of the debating society where novices and more experienced debaters from Form I-VI, come together to debate pre-released motions  – mostly of contemporary significance but also, on occasion, classic principled or ethical issues. It is all quite relaxed, great fun and is the “way in” for anyone wanting to become involved in the wider debating world. Once the weekly debate is complete the wider audience – made up of fellow debaters – chips in with their own observations, thoughts and ideas. There is no requirement to ever take the plunge and occupy one of the positions at the debating table on a Wednesday but most – eventually – do.

We also have our competitive debaters who spend hours honing their skills, discussing and dissecting potential motions and working out new ways to approach complex argumentation. Monday or Tuesday afternoons are our usual coaching sessions and it is here that the next generation of impressive Dollar debaters are formed.

Competitive debating is compelling, astonishing and – to many – frightening. In a typical one day competition debaters will be expected to debate 4 or 5 times. On each occasion they must give a 5 minute speech on a motion they have been given just 15 minutes to prepare. They do not chose their side of the argument or their position at the table. It is, in many ways, an extreme intellectual sport.

This October our Debaters dominated the University of St Andrews annual schools’ competition. 44 teams from all over Scotland, featuring the top debaters in Scotland, came together for one day and just before 8pm – 11 hours after we had arrived – the Dollar A Team of Natalie and Logan were announced winners of the Grand Final, successfully opposing the motion that “childhood is the best years of your life”. On the way to victory they had negotiated motions on the structure of democratic political systems, preferences for government spending in times of economic recession and the nature of management in professional football. Our B Team of Lucy and Affan enjoyed similar success – emerging victorious from their Bronze final (for novice teams) and, even more impressively, Lucy was named overall top speaker on the day. All of this success can be traced back to our Wednesday debates, our coaching sessions and their singular, enthusiastic and never ending desire to improve as debaters.