Oxford Homeless Debates: Getting Started

Dutch former high school debater Caspar Jacobs moved to Oxford for studies. He has taken up working at OxHoP and started up debate workshops for the homeless who attend the centre with assistance from IDEA NL. He shares his experiences with the programme on our site.Oxford DebateA year after having moved to Oxford for my study, I decided to volunteer with Oxford Homeless Pathways, an organisation that provides night shelters, activities and medical assistance for the homeless population of Oxford. In the United Kingdom, Oxford is a city with a high number of homeless people, which is very visible on the streets. My idea was to start a debating club at the O’Hanlon House managed by OxHoP. Having debated for years at school myself, I know it can teach many skills that can be beneficial to OxHoP’s clients. Speaking out for yourself and coming up with arguments can be very useful during a job interview or rent negotiations. Apart from that, debating is also a fun activity that the clients hopefully enjoy doing. When thinking about how to plan the weekly sessions, I thought it would be best to focus on the more basic skills of debating, instead of the complicated rules of BP or AP debating. Knowing what a good argument is and how to explain it is a more transferable skill than knowing the role fulfilment of the third opposition speaker in a tournament. Another factor I expected to have to consider was a varying attendance. The debating sessions should be fun and worthwhile for everyone, whether someone is attending the first time or has already been to three previous sessions. I think this can be done by focusing on specific topics every week, instead of following a more general curve that aims at an end goal. In my next article, I will tell how the first few sessions went. I am looking forward to teaching debating and contribute to the well-being of Oxford’s homeless people.