Four homeschooled students at Patrick Henry College went to Oxford University in December to take part in a debate with some of Oxford’s best student debaters, and two of them won. Matt du Mee, 22, of Peoria, Ariz., and Miss Rayel Papke, 21, of Queen Creek, Ariz., were the winners in a moot court tournament that took three days.
The students were judged on their debating skills, presentation and courtroom demeanor. They had to argue over a fictitious lawsuit by a multimillionaire against a sculptor. The dispute was over the sculptor’s statue of a purple boll weevil.
The Americans had to learn the intricacies of British contract law and a set of judicial fiats. According to The Washington Times, du Mee remarked: “We didn’t really have any parallels we could work off of. We just had to buckle down and learn the material.” They also learned about British courtroom decorum, addressing the judges as “my lord” rather than “your honor.”
Du Mee said his team was the underdog at the outset, but that the tide began to turn during the last round.
“It was really exhilarating,” he said, “because by the time we got to our last speech I felt like we really had a good chance of winning.”
Andrew Graham, master of Balliol College at Oxford, said of the competition, “There were extraordinarily impressive performances. Both teams were very polished, very professional and very well-prepared.”
But the homeschoolers won!
Michael Farris, President of Patrick Henry College and team coach, accompanied the American team to Oxford and was thrilled with their victory.
“It was exciting,” he said, “having watched a lot of rounds of moot court. I was pretty sure they won, but I’m obviously biased. To hear these two members of the highest court of Britain declare them the winners … was very encouraging.” It must have been an incredible moment.
Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000 by the Home School Legal Defense Association. It was founded as a college that homeschoolers, dedicated to the principles of our Constitution and the Bible, could attend and learn how to change America for the better. Located at Purcellville, Va., not far from Washington, the college emphasizes academic excellence and has sent many of its students to intern in Congress and the White House.
After the tournament, the debaters were treated to a dinner by the Younger Society, the law alumni of Balliol College. Among the attending alumni were judges from the highest courts in Britain, leading solicitors and many other prominent individuals.
Of the Americans, Andrew Graham remarked: “They were good. If I would’ve been in my mid-20s and had to appear in front of Supreme Court judges, I imagine it would’ve been terrifying.”
The winning American team and Patrick Henry College have made us all proud of the homeschool movement, which is proving that devout young believers in the Bible and U.S. constitutional principles can debate and win at the most prestigious university in the entire English-speaking world.
In the struggle to win back America, we can be sure that future graduates of Patrick Henry College will provide leaders with the skills and learning to enter the U.S. judiciary where the power to change America is greatest.
As for the debates, there is to be a rematch next spring when the Oxford teams will visit the United States.