Isaac Cape 2020 and Team Canada won the World Schools' Debating Championship (WSDC) on August 4. The tournament was a week-long affair with the best high-school debaters in the world competing for the title of World Champions. This year, it was held online with Macau, China, as the host city.
The final came down to Canada vs. Hong Kong in an incredible debate: “In the instance where a revolution has overthrown a previous system, This House Prefers Technocratic Governments to Democratic Governments,” with Canada as the proposition.
“The team won on an 8-1 decision by the judges,” says Selwyn House Senior Debating Coach Jonathan Bracewell. “Congratulations to an amazing team for an amazing result.”
“The other two Selwyn House alumni debaters were Gabriel Di Bert 2019 and Karl Valentini 2014,” Mr. Bracewell adds. “Both of them made the development team, but didn’t make the competition team, so they never actually competed in WSDC.”
Isaac is the first Selwyn debater to compete in the Championship.
“The tournament wasn't nearly as stressful as the training that led up to it,” Isaac recalled afterward. “We had been practicing nearly daily for roughly a month beforehand. A friend of mine on Team Canada who attended LCC and is now studying at Harvard lives just four blocks away, so we debated in each other's basements. This made debating infinitely better than my prior online experiences. All in all, the competition was incredibly fun, and the feeling of winning was unmatched.
“My four teammates and three alternates were from Quebec, Ontario and BC. All Team Canada teams are selected through a rigorous tryouts process that narrows the team down to eight debaters, consisting of five who debate at WSDC and plus three who assist in training.
“We train repeatedly, sparring against national teams, as well as individual sessions with coaches to improve on our skills. This proved to be incredibly helpful and took us from being a pretty weak prep team at the beginning of the year to an incredibly efficient group.
“It took us quite a while to get consistently strong at prep, but we really found a strong rhythm. In fact, we went undefeated in every round we competed in until we won WSDC—about 15 debates.
“The final debate was a good round on a strange motion and an admittedly below average performance from both teams. We won 8-1 not because of how incredibly impressive we were but because of the clarity of the work we did during the round. Both teams had hard sides and in the end our engagement and argumentation simply stacked up a little better. Team Hong Kong was definitely the team we were most scared of facing in the final.
“In WSDC, most every debater is incredibly talented. Once you arrive in elimination rounds, in particular, the calibre of debating is extremely high. We faced Sri Lanka, 2020 finalists, China, 2018 winner and 2019 semi-finalist, Singapore, 2020 semi-finalist, and finally Hong Kong, who were the number-one team in the other division the past two years and were undefeated before finals. Debating against anyone at this level is incredibly challenging because they are competitors who have proven an ability to consistently win which is not an easy skill to acquire in debate. It requires a ton of strategic awareness, team cohesion and argumentative/refutative rigour which makes winning any of these rounds a daunting task.
“I'm certainly interested in continuing debate for my first year at university and will re-evaluate whether I'm able to make the proper commitment to it in future years of school. Generally, I'm hoping to study Computer Science or History, with a major in one and a minor in the other.”