Debating has always been a very popular cultural activity at Ashton College. Students are trained to hone their critical thinking and public speaking skills through the power of reasoned argument. Debating also has another very important spin-off for students; the argumentative essay writing skills (part of the English curriculum throughout school) are greatly enhanced.
Juniors comprise grades 7 to 9 students whilst the senior teams are grades 10 to 12. Half colours are awarded for three years’ participation and full colours for five years’ participation. Debaters are also eligible for colours if they win their league. At Honours’ Evening each year a Debating trophy is awarded to the year’s top debater.
Debating takes place all four terms, but students do not forfeit colours if they do not attend for a period due to other extra murals. Debaters participate in many practice debates during the course of the year, with topics covering a wide range of compelling political issues. They also learn the skill of adjudicating debates. In August the Inter House Cultural Challenge gives debaters the opportunity to show which House (London, Cambridge or Oxford) has the strongest debaters. Ashton enters the SACEE (South African Council for English Education) debating league, Gauteng Eastern Region. After a series of ranking debates – where around 28 schools and hundreds of speakers contend – centralized league championships and provincial level competitions take place.
Ashton debaters are well-spoken, informed and confident. They are passionate about the art of persuasion and have adopted the words of the great Desmond Tutu: “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”.