High school students Naomi Harris and Finley McDougall from St. Ignatius Catholic School won the inaugural Conyers Inter-Schools Debate Tournament last week in a tightly contested event.
The tournament brought together 20 high school debaters from St. Ignatius, Cayman Prep, Clifton Hunter and Cayman International schools in a three-round, round-robin, single-day debate tournament on Nov. 24 at St. Ignatius school.
Arguing both sides
For weeks, the participants researched and prepared to debate whether single-sex schools were better for education than co-educational schools. Making it more challenging, the students had to prepare and argue both sides of that position in the first two rounds.
Arguing the case that he clearly thought single-sex schooling was better for all concerned, Finley McDougall said, “I have never heard of a teenage pregnancy in an all-boys school,” to the roar of the audience in Loyola Hall.
Not to be outdone, Lesli Tathum responded sarcastically, “Of course, we must protect our poor naive girls from those horrible boys! Of course not; this is the real world and girls can handle it.”
In the third round, participants chose to debate one of three resolutions, such as whether reality TV does more harm than good, and whether beauty pageants do more harm than good, with only 10 minutes of preparation time.
Many opted for the beauty pageant option, with some presenting the case that they were outdated and sexist, while others built a case for choice and empowerment.
Grand Court Justice Ingrid Mangatal judged the final exhibition debate, offering constructive points and praising the students for their high standard of discourse. She commented that these students could easily have a bright future as advocates in court, if that was their goal.
More than 20 people from the business and education communities volunteered to judge the debates, including several from the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise, and the sponsor of the event, Conyers Dill & Pearman law firm.
Conyers partner Fraser Hughes said the firm was proud to be a sponsor, adding, “The benefits in researching and presenting your arguments in a clear and persuasive manner is invaluable for all students, no matter what they do later in life.”
Su Mander, literacy director of Rotary Sunrise, said, “Judging at this tournament was very exciting and inspiring. The students clearly loved the opportunity to perform and practice their debating skills in a focused, competitive environment.
“The high level of talent and confidence demonstrated by the debaters in the impromptu round, where they had only 10 minutes to prepare their speeches, was especially impressive. I was also delighted to see that the finalists had taken on board some of the earlier constructive feedback provided by the judges – they really excelled in the final debate.”
In the final results, only seven points separated the eighth-place team from the second-place team. The top two teams of Naomi Harris and Finley McDougall, and of Lesli Tathum and Delani Augustine, both from St. Ignatius, won first and second place, respectively, with Clifton Hunter’s team of Ethan Walter and Chanelle Scott placing third.
In competition for individual honors, the top three individual speakers were within three points of each other. In the end, Naomi Harris, a Year 11 student from St. Ignatius, was crowned best individual debater; Chanelle Scott from Clifton Hunter came in second; and Finley McDougall from St. Ignatius finished third.