Two members of the British National Debate Team, Becki Howarth and Richard Hunter, concluded a debate tour of America with a visit to Georgia College. On Nov. 14, each British National debater teamed up with a GC student to faced off for a showcase debate in front of a crowd of attendees.
The teams were named the Government and the Loyal Opposition. The Government consisted of Hunter and GC senior Mary Helen Higgs, a theater and rhetoric double major; the Loyal Opposition consisted of Howarth and Florrie McCard, a GC senior and French major.
The evening’s debate topic was a proposed motion linking federal funding of higher education programs to employability. The teams debated in the style of the British Parliament, with members of each side approaching a podium in the middle to present prepared remarks to the audience before returning to their team’s seats on either side.
The Government argued that the motion would solve the problem of understaffed STEM fields, such as nursing, by providing students with financial incentives to major in those areas. The Loyal Opposition argued that the motion would devalue liberal arts majors and make them a luxury that only the very wealthy would be able to afford to major in.
The audience was interactive and responsive to the debate, shouting “hear, hear!” when they strongly agreed with a debater’s point. In parliamentary-style debate, the audience’s behavior plays a key role.
Howarth said debating with Americans about educational funding was interesting and constructive because the two countries have very different systems.
“It’s really great to debate people who are really passionate about debate and discourse especially in the context of U.S. politics and policies,” Howarth said.
The audience voted on a winner at the debate’s close, naming the Loyal Opposition the champions.
Debate attendee Chris Clyde said the evening’s topic struck home in a special way for him. Clyde is a senior outdoor education major, a major which has recently been removed from GC’s curriculum.
Clyde will still be able to finish his degree, but GC is no longer accepting new entries into the major. Clyde linked the debate’s discussion of funding for higher education to his own experience.
“That brought a lot of familiarity to the school pulling our major,” Clyde said. “That’s why I voted for the Loyal Opposition who was arguing to fund majors like mine.”
Despite the loss, Hunter said he still enjoyed the debate and loved his stay at GC. Hunter said the debate tour has been exhausting but worth the experience.
“We’ve done debates in places from Manhattan to small-town West Virginia,” Hunter said. “We’ve seen so much. It’s been a great experience.”
On this tour, Hunter and Howarth debated 20 different universities across America. Hunter said GC was one of his favorite stops because of the small-town feel and friendly students and staff.
“Everyone’s been so considerate to us and made us feel at home,” Hunter said.
Howarth also said she enjoyed her stay at GC and is excited for the future of the growing debate society on campus.
“Everyone’s been so nice and welcoming here,” Howarth said. “It seems like a really nice community with really friendly people. It’s so nice to be somewhere where the debate society is young because there’s so much hope for how big it’s going to grow.”
Chevene Simmons, community director of Campus Housing, said that GC’s hosting this debate is good for the school and shows it is interested in “hot topics.” He thinks this debate demonstrates that GC is using its international connections well.
“This debate will make people all over the world more attracted to Georgia College,” Simmons said. “It shows that this small, liberal arts school is getting bigger and better.”
Photos by Emily Bryant | Staff Photographer