Jyväskylä finally has its own English-speaking debate society. The founder, Laura Paatelainen, wanted to continue the hobby in her new university town.
Debating follows the official British Parliamentary Format.
”This house proposes a mandatory voting for all citizens.”
The ”Prime Minister” presents the topic, followed by the ”Opposition Leader”. Finally, after several speeches, government and opposition ”Whips” try to sum up the discussion in favour of their own side.
Jyväskylä Debate Society, JDS, is a recently founded extracurricular club aiming to gather together people of several nationalities to practise the skills of debating and argumentation. The core idea is that the debaters cannot choose the topic, or even their opinion. They need to find good arguments for whatever they are debating.
Laura Paatelainen, the founder and chairperson of the society, had herself been into debating for several years in Tampere before moving to Jyväskylä. She wanted the society to work solely in English.
”All the other societies in Finland, and most around the world, debate in English. We also want both Finnish and international students to be able to join us for debates.”
Despite strict sounding rules and a very structured form, the atmosphere is relaxed. Everyone is given exactly seven minutes time to do their part, which is different depending on the role in the debate. In addition, the debaters ask each other short questions, which are supposed to be answered quickly. Formal rules help to set the grounds, and keep the debate matter-of-fact.
Jimi Fousekis joined the debate society soon after it was founded this spring.
”Essentially, it is an exercise on open-mindedness and quick wits”, he sums up the idea.
”Debating has been fun and exciting at the same time. I didn’t have any grand expectations from debating, but it has been great to have interesting discussions with different people. I was a bit anxious about speaking publicly in English, but I’ve gathered some confidence in both performing and English skills in general”, says Teemu Hakanen, the secretary of JDS.
Even though many world-class politicians, such as Tony Blair and David Cameron, have also been active in their universities’ debate societies, debating is still for everyone.
”I’ve heard it said that there isn’t any area in life in which debating skills wouldn’t be useful. And our debate topics vary a lot, sometimes we have debates over fun and silly topics too, so there is bound to be something for everyone”, Laura concludes.