by Dries Martens and Yannick De Bruyn
For the past few years, the Leuven Debate Society has been offering the opportunity for students to improve their rhetorical abilities. In the absence of such associations elsewhere, which are driven by a student initiative, the LDS has grown to be a relevant student society, offering both education and opportunities to compete. Meeting weekly, students can gather for mock debates and lectures, open to all students, in English which is the common language of the society.
Upon arrival in Belgium, many international students may be struck by the seeming timidity of the locals. Especially infuriating to their more boisterous Dutch cousins, who despite a common language often have difficulty adjusting, this Belgian aloofness carries over into other domains. Musicians are often appreciative of the comparative politeness of Belgian audiences. Foreign students may be struck by the more lecture-driven way of teaching, as opposed to more interactive seminar formats. Another area on which this has consequences is on Belgium’s debating culture, or the apparent lack thereof.
While a striking feature of university life abroad is a wide array of competitive debating societies duking it out in both national and international tournaments, a notable absence has been that of the Belgians. Determined to rectify this, a group of international and local students founded the Leuven Debating Society in late 2014, that focused on the British Parliamentary style of debating. LDS has since grown to be a reliable presence in tournaments abroad, proving Belgians to be a match for their peers abroad and likely inspiring the foundation of similar societies at universities in Ghent and Brussels. A Belgian debating culture can be said to be emerging, albeit slowly.
The British Parliamentary debating style breaks down as follows: eight people are divided into four teams, two on the government side and two on the opposition side. The moderators unveil a motion, and debaters are expected to defend their positions as best they can. Actual agreement is optional. Combined with workshops on various aspects of public speaking and argumentation, debates take place once a week and reliably turn timid students from rhetorical zero to hero over the course of a semester. Those who are willing to accompany the society to test their mettle at big international tournaments.
Our weekly events are occasionally supplemented by more free-form debating on a subject chosen by the debaters. Plans to develop this aspect of the Society further are in the works. The second semesters’ series of debates are traditionally book ended by a lecture, given by guest speakers from different walks of life.
With the guidance of our debate officers and ever helpful regulars, both novice and experienced debaters will get to cut their teeth into this semester’s opening debate. Both international and local students are welcome.
For more information, you can visit our Website: https://leuvendebatingsoci.wixsite.com/ldsofficial
Or, our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeuvenDebatingSociety/
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