Introducing The Rhetoric Collective

The past 7 months here at Eh Priori have been a rollercoaster of a ride. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but there were a couple of issues that have cropped up. First off, while readers have found our content useful, we have had a number of requests for coaching sessions to help debaters put into practice the techniques and strategies we discuss in our articles.

In addition, we have a ton of ideas for content that we think everyone will love, but we have neither the time, money nor manpower required. We would really want to publish more articles, but each one takes easily half a day to write and to edit, and with full-time jobs, some help is needed. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to spend much time writing and giving away information so the only way forward is to at least provide some small amount as compensation to incentivise more contributions from other debaters. We also really, really want to get back into video production. I personally, have much higher standards for production quality with better editing and graphics. But that means better camera and audio gear, lighting, hardware and software for editing. Probably a couple of interns to manage the day to day operations and help with editing of both articles and videos. We just can’t afford to pay for everything out of our own pockets. Obviously trying to raise funds through the site is untenable, and we would never change this to a pay-per-view model. That just goes against our entire ethos and everything that we stand for. These problems are probably why most other debate blogs tend to die out after a while.

Hopefully, the solution to all of this is The Rhetoric Collective. It’s a new business that Alfred and I are working on to provide debate training for those who don’t currently have access to sufficient resources within the school environment, or for those who want to get started in debating but don’t know how. Essentially, we have taken all the years of experience debating and coaching successful debaters and distilled it into a formal curriculum that can take anyone from a complete newbie to an advanced debater. Revenue from the business will then be channeled here for our global audience.

Damn Alfred looks good here. Shoutout to JT and  Crispcontrasts  for doing a photoshoot for us.

Damn Alfred looks good here. Shoutout to JT and Crispcontrasts for doing a photoshoot for us.

Naturally, we will be accused of being disgusting sell-outs that want to make a quick buck. We do want to generate profit, and we think the work we put in over the years to become amongst the best coaches around deserves compensation. We do work full-time as coaches for schools after all. But trust me when I say, I do know what can happen when debate becomes ‘pay-to-win’. Not many people know this, but I didn’t have the best of resources when I was first starting out. I started debating very late (compared to most other debaters) in a neighbourhood school (think random public school anywhere in the world). Compared to the best schools with massive budgets, multiple coaches and a comprehensive debate program, the exposure I had was miniscule and it was impossible to compete.

When I moved on to the tertiary circuit, I had no funding and had to pay for tournament expenses completely out of my own pocket. And it didn’t help that I grew up in a low-income family. I still remember the times when debating at a tournament meant sacrificing meals for the next few days. In fact, I only started debating with Alfred because he had fully funded our first tournament together. Quick story time, it was 2012, I was in National Service, completely broke and had been offered full subsidy to judge at the Malaysia Debate Open. I was a relatively experienced debater with a number of breaks but this was my first time judging outside of the country. Alfred was an up and coming debater in SMU and was looking for teammates to debate at that same tournament. He asked me to debate with him instead of taking up the subsidy and I said I wouldn’t be able to afford anything, not the registration fees, travel expenses, not even food. For some reason, he (and his other teammate Prateek Rai) offered to pay for everything (I guess they thought I was really good haha).

The experiences we shared in that tournament was the beginning of regular appearances and multiple achievements in tournaments together, long nights discussing coaching strategies, and a lifelong friendship. Now, we’re working together on Eh Priori and The Rhetoric Collective. If it wasn’t for the help that Alfred and many others provided, I would have never become the debater or coach I am today. That is why I tend to gravitate towards coaching the same neighbourhood schools that I came from. That is why helping others who don’t have access to resources is such a fundamental part of our identity as a partnership and the same extends to our business ventures. The Rhetoric Collective will provide financial aid, partially or fully subsidising the cost of any of our programs for those who can’t afford it. We have always resented the fact that debating is the playground of the ‘elite’ and work every day to change it.

So how will all of this affect you, the reader?

Well if you want to get started with debating, or you’re already involved in schools debating but need more exposure and focused training in Singapore, you’re in luck. You can head over to our website here to take a look.

If you don’t really care about it, that’s fine. Eh Priori will always remain free for you. We will continue posting content here, hopefully on a more regular schedule. In fact, now that we have spent months documenting each lesson on every aspect of debating that we teach in our classes, we have so much more content to publish for your benefit.

Anyway, with the Singapore Secondary School Debating Championship (SSSDC) coming up, we’ll be publishing guides on the World Schools Debating Championship format (which is adapted for SSSDC), tips, as well as motion analysis for everyone who is competing so keep a look out for that.

If you've enjoyed our content so far, remember to take a look at the website and like The Rhetoric Collective on Facebook as well. It'll go a long way towards sustaining this blog.

Singapore Nationals

The Art of War