[Student Voices]Debating climate change
English-language debating has risen to prominence in Korean high schools, particularly in the circle of rival foreign language high schools, international academies, academies of foreign studies and even leadership academies in South Korea. It is one of the more well-known extracurricular activities that students vying to enter an American college obsess over. To accommodate this demand, various tournaments have sprung up across the country. At these contests, up to more than a hundred students engage in bouts of verbal wrestling with their college resumes in mind.
Therefore, the debate that occurred at Cheongshim International Academy last month is probably the first of its kind in Korea. This debate was not part of a competition, but part of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Debates. It was unique in Korea because there were no certificates, not even for participation. The judges were 50 high school students. The winning side of the debate was determined by a vote from those student judges. The focus, however, was not on winning, but the very act of debating in front of a wide and diverse audience of Cheongshim students. The debate was not part of a competition, but a public event organized to raise awareness about climate change in front of as many of the debaters’ peers as possible.
During the debate, the two opposing teams argued the strengths and weaknesses of Cheongshim’s Climate Change Action Plan. The Plan was devised by Cheongshim students to alleviate the adverse effects of global warming and to prevent further climate change. The plan calls for greater public awareness about climate change and the simple actions that ordinary people can undertake to help prevent it. The plan’s devisers argued that increasing the number of people that are actually aware about the seriousness of the issue would do much more for the situation than the strenuous actions of only the very few who are aware but reluctant to act, especially while the many ignorant remain unmoved.
This event was not only a public display, but a work of charity. It was organized by four Cheongshim students for the purpose of making their peers more aware of climate change and to propose potential solutions. During the debate, the audience learned that a great majority of the public knows little about the state of the environment and what humans have contributed to that state. They also learned that with just a little more information, there are many small activities they can undertake to make a big difference.
Watching fellow students debate an important current issue would have a major impact on any student. Those students that debated in the public event take classes, eat lunch and socialize with the various members of the audience. The audience has witnessed otherwise quite ordinary students muster the courage to speak in front of a rather large group about issues that most teenagers are unaware of, or choose to ignore.
There are many positives from the debate that audience members can take back to their classrooms and homes. The first is more information about climate change and the various actions that ordinary people can take to help save the environment. The second is inspiration. The sharing of material objects that the less fortunate do not possess is not the only charitable action. Charity should also inspire others to take action, especially those who have the time and resources to do so. That is the principle upon which the public event on climate change was organized at Cheongshim International Academy, a small high school in South Korea.
An 11th grade student at Cheongshim International Academy in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi
By Boryung Choi