“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. This quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald practically sums up the Oxford Institute’s opinion of the importance of debating in a student’s academic life.
The Oxford Summer Program offers students the opportunity to debate in the prestigious Oxford Union, a debating society located in the heart of the city of Oxford. It was founded in 1823 and the Oxford Institute has been in partnership with the Union for 10-12 years now. Public speaking is a compulsory part of the Oxford Summer Program as we believe it is incredibly important for building a student’s confidence and their ability to present their argument clearly and eloquently.
The Oxford Union is one of the longest-standing debating societies in the UK and has been attended by a multitude of famous people throughout history including world leaders, presidents, and celebrities. Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, and Mother Teresa are among many previous attendees and have given speeches within the Oxford Union which means the students of the Oxford Summer Program could be standing in the exact spot that they did!
The aim of the Union is to encourage discussion about the world issues and problems facing us today and in the future. Over the years it has heard debates from both young and elderly people, encompassing a broad range of topics, from business and politics to art and sports. It offers competitive debating workshops where students can challenge their opponents through Q&A sessions as well as meet their heroes.
The students are taught by the best debaters from the Oxford Union and learn how to produce a solid argument that is persuasive and effective. At the end of the summer program, there is a final debate competition that enables the students to show everything they have learned and to put it into practice, whilst also having fun with their friends.
We believe that debating and public speaking is so important because it is a recognized skill that is crucial for the world of work, where presentations are a common aspect of most jobs. Public speaking enables a student to think critically, analytically, and logically and debating ensures they are up to date with current affairs as well as increasing an individual’s social awareness outside of their daily life.
Students learn to express themselves through different viewpoints and perspectives that they would normally have been closed off from. They learn tolerance and respect for different people’s opinions and their overall persona develops positively. They learn to back up their ideas with evidence and research sources, and they student is able to take ownership of their own intellectual development and expand their curiosity on a multitude of subjects.
There are four main skills that students will obtain through debate and public speaking. These are rhetoric, eloquence, antilogic, and eristic. In other words, they learn how to speak eloquently and effectively, whilst mastering both the thesis and antithesis of the topics they are debating and can argue them well.
Overall, students will gain a less prejudiced understanding of the world and will become much more supportive people who can see things from many different perspectives which is an invaluable skill in the modern world. We believe that if everyone took up debating then society would be a much better place, maintaining respect and tolerance for people’s differences and living in harmony alongside each other.