Immigrated at age 9, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard…”Debate is how you determine populism”

An introverted South Korean boy lost his “ability to dissent” after immigrating to Australia at age 9. First the language barrier, then racial and cultural minorities suppressed his ability to express himself. It wasn’t until two years later that he found the courage to speak up, when a teacher encouraged him to join a debate class. In debate, he was able to prepare before speaking and was guaranteed the opportunity to express his opinion reasonably. As a high school student, he won the 2013 World Student Debate Championship (WSDC) and was named Best Speaker. He went on to Harvard University, where he won the 2016 World University Debate Championships (WUDC) and coached the Australian National Debate Team and the Harvard University Debate Team in the United States. This is the story of Bo Hyun Seo (29, pictured), who recently published The Debater, a debate guide to making “good objections.

Seo describes debate as a process of weeding out bad arguments to focus on worthy opposition. By exchanging opinions, he says, people can draw attention to areas that have been ignored and come up with better alternatives that go beyond refuting the other side’s arguments. “Through high-quality opposition, debaters can learn from each other and come up with the best answers,” Seo said. “A good debate requires the civility to listen to others and the courage to be willing to have one’s ideas refuted.”

Seo emphasized that for democracy to work, the public must have the ability to evaluate politicians’ debates. They need to be able to recognize whether they are making a logical case for a policy or using rhetoric and populism in order to make a rational decision as a voter.

“I felt a crisis in democracy when I watched the 2016 U.S. presidential debate between Trump and Hillary, which was filled with slander,” Seo said. “The public must have debate skills so that they can fairly evaluate politicians’ arguments and not be manipulated by opportunists.”

[Photo by Kim Ho-young]
Seo said that debate also enhances participants’ intellectual abilities. The ability to formulate arguments and refute opponents’ opinions in real time develops logical thinking skills. Focusing on debate as his “raison d’être” in school, Seo was admitted early to Harvard University, where he was selected as one of the “Junior 24,” the top 1% of students on campus, and became a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious honor society in the United States. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, she received a Schwartzman Scholarship to pursue a master’s 스포츠토토in public policy at Tsinghua University in China and is currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School.

“Rhetoric has been an integral part of Harvard’s curriculum since 1806, when the Boylston Professorship of Persuasive Speech (Rhetoric) was created,” said Seo. “Although the emphasis on writing since the Industrial Revolution has diminished the status of rhetoric, the interactive and spontaneous exchange of ideas is still crucial to the development of logical thinking.”

After completing her master’s, Seo worked for two years as a journalist at the Australian Financial Review, and plans to practice law in the United States after completing her doctorate. Afterward, she hopes to enter Australian politics. “As a journalist, I tried to highlight public voices, but I sometimes felt limited by the media’s ability to shape public opinion,” said Seo. “I want to broaden my perspective on the world through the language of law and ultimately contribute to guiding society in a desirable direction.”

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