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In debates, winning is not the point

Initiative from Ghanian-US student aims to start new political debate culture at uni. It is about challenging listeners, he says

The question isn’t who ‘wins’ a debate. It is not important who is right or which opinion turns out to be the strongest. The importance lies in the nature of the debate itself.

This is according to Gregory Rockson, a student of philosophy and political science, and one of the founders of the new initiative, the Copenhagen Union.

Rockson has only been in Denmark for two months, but has already managed to create a popular forum for discussion. He has already organised two large debates with prominent thinkers and people from the world of diplomacy. The last time there were 35-plus students, including a bunch of demonstrators picketing outside the door.

Passion for politics

Debate is an opportunity to challenge the supposed unshakeable views of the speaker, he says. Be they one-sided or multifaceted. But it is also a way of training the ear of the listener:

»By way of debate, we are hoping to promote tolerance. However right I think I am, you may always have something relevant to say, something which for me is worth listening to and learning from«, says Gregory.

He lived in Ghana until after high school, when he moved to the United States for his further education. His passion turned out to be for politically centered debates. But that didn’t become clear to him until a bit later on. »I come from a family that gave me an appetite for politics – without being very political,« he says.

Detour through medicine

They never discussed or debated much, but his father would make sure that Gregory knew the most important content of the newspapers each day. This made him the one child at school who seemed to know everything about current affairs.

However, before he could feel fully confident about his interests, it took a brief brush with studies in medical science.

»This just didn’t feel right«,he says. But by attending public debate meetings and taking part in topical discussions, Gregory soon rediscovered his natural flair for politics. In turn, he came to see debate as one of the most important disciplines of democracy.

Copenhagen Union

From attending other debate meetings, Gregory is now hosting his own, together with five other passionate political science students. The Copenhagen Union is a student-led political and philosophical society with participants so far from the University of Copenhagen and Roskilde University.

It provides a scene for debate and intellectual discourse, and invites high profile speakers to come and share their political views directly with the students.

The Copenhagen Union also participates in debate tournaments around Europe.

Sometimes just fun

Recently, for example, the Copenhagen Union was represented at a rhetoric and debate competition in the Netherlands known as the UCU Open. Although they didn’t win, they at least experienced that the value they place on a lively debate is just as validly found in other countries.

The society also holds regular meetings once a week for discussions on various topics. Here, it is not always politics which is on the menu.

»Sometimes we just have fun and talk about something random – ‘excessive global meat consumption’, for instance,« Gregory says.

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