Debaters compete in South Africa

By Mariel Brunman

Debating topics ranging from justification of racial profiling by police officers to pornography, Michelle Choi ’12 and Elle Wilson ’13 competed in the World School Debate Championship in Cape Town, South Africa from Jan. 15 to 28. Wilson and Choi, along with the rest of the United States team, competed against debaters from Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Scotland, Sweden and Wales.

“It is really fascinating to see what political perspectives are coming from different parts of the world,” Wilson said. “Despite these differences, everyone gets along so well.”

Two teams debated in each round, and the USA team drew more opposition sides than proposition sides for the debate. The USA team debated many of the teams that ultimately made it to the final rounds and placed 38th out of 47th in the competition.

“Often, we were unlucky with the sides we drew to debate,” Choi said. “We ended up with the harder sides.”

Debaters qualified for the tournament in a two part process. If they made it past preliminary video auditions, they competed in a second round where they found out their topics minutes before the debate began.

The remaining four to five debaters after the auditions made up the national team for the championship competition.

Practices were held via email, conference phone calls or Skype sessions throughout the year as Choi and Wilson’s teammates live in different states across the country.

On days when Team USA was not competing, Choi and Wilson toured Cape Town with their teammates. They hiked to the top of Table Mountain and visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

“We saw amazing views of the ocean and surrounding city, and it was so moving to see the similarities and differences between our two cultures.” Wilson said.

“A huge part of the experience was meeting everyone and learning from all of their different experiences and viewpoints. [Cape Town] is such a beautiful, and everyone at WSDC is so friendly,” Wilson said.