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Debating Update

Debaters take on Strong Opponents in London


Date published: Wed 26 Feb 2020   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


DEBATERS TAKE ON STRONG OPPONENTS IN LONDON

We are now in what is always the busiest time in the schools’ debating calendar and two competitions within six days saw TBSHS speakers gathering at Epping Station just after 7:00 am to travel to all-day competitions at universities in the capital

Imperial College Juniors

There are very few competitions specifically for students in Year 10 and below, so this new venture by Imperial College in South Kensington was a very welcome addition to our fixture list. Two Year 10 TBSHS teams, joined 38 other teams from 17 schools for four rounds of hard-fought debating.

In the first round, both teams had to open the case for “This House Would Allow Individual Schools To Set Their Own Curriculum”. Dan Jordan, in only his second inter-school competition, made a competent start, stating that the curriculum would have to include a standard core, but would otherwise allow much greater flexibility, offering parents a choice between schools with a wider range of focus.

Eric Queeney backed him up with some strong rebuttal of the Opposition’s arguments, going on to point out that the freedom to set a different curriculum would enable schools to offer greater specialisation, working more closely with local businesses. Eric and Dan were placed third in their room, with a team from traditionally strong Dulwich College taking the honours. Meanwhile, Donovan Wong & Yasin Shah, making their debuts in TBSHS colours, achieved a very pleasing second place, ahead of teams from Winchester College and Whitgift School

The second motion was “This House Would Only Imprison Criminals Who Pose an Ongoing Threat to Public Safety”. Speaking third against the motion Yasin fulfilled his role very well, introducing new arguments, in particular pointing out that the threat of prison would have a deterrent effect, unmatched by the prospect of another fine or spell of community service. 

Summing up the debate, Donovan’s well-structured speech addressed the main points of clash in the debate and successfully attacked some of the weaknesses in the Government (Proposition) case, notably the difficulty of assessing whether someone poses a threat to the public. The debate was won by another Dulwich team, with TBSHS squeaking a slightly lucky second place. Dan & Eric also gained second place in their room.

Given that there was only one other state school team in the whole event, our teams had enjoyed an extremely promising morning. After lunch, the first motion advocated the use of radical campaigning methods by climate activists, with very different results for our teams, both of whom were closing for the motion. Dan extended his side’s case well, pointing out that every protester is a person too, a good riposte to the Opposition’s repeated arguments about radical protests inconveniencing and potentially endangering people, and comping the violence of the weather with that of activists.

Eric gave a powerful summary speech, stressing that climate change is a global phenomenon of such importance that radical protests are needed to spur governments into action.

He also made a good job of playing up the importance of Dan’s contribution, always a good tactic, and the team duly took first place in a close decision. Unfortunately, Yasin & Donovan had to be content with fourth place in their room.

However, they bounced back, arguing that “Technocracy is a Better Form of Government Than Democracy”. Donovan spoke first, pointing out that few MPs come from scientific backgrounds or understand the statistics they use. He explained that specialists with proven expertise would be much better placed to make important policy decision about health, education, defence etc.

Yasin backed him up well, arguing that because most MPs do not share the life experiences of their constituents, this creates a barrier between the people and the lawmakers. In addition he rightly questioned the Opposition’s unfounded assertion that technocrats were more racist or open to bribery than democrats. Yasin and Donovan’s efforts earned them another second place, a result matched by Dan & Eric.

In the final table of results, novices Donovan & Yasin finished in a very creditable 20th place, while our more experienced team came 10th. This qualified them for the Bronze Final, for teams in 9th to 12th place.

In his fifth debate of the day, Eric led off with a very well-constructed, fluent and persuasive speech showing why “happy ever after” film endings do children more harm than good. He focussed on the unrealistic expectations such endings breed in the minds of children and attacked the genre of films for their lack of BAME role models and their portrayal of submissive females. Dan backed him up with some sound rebuttal of the arguments used by his opponents, as well as raising some challenging Points of Information in their speeches. He also made a telling comparison between the over-sympathetic treatment of the leading characters and the one-dimensional portrayal of the villains. TBSHS came a very close second, just behind a team from Whitgift School, but ahead of teams from Sevenoaks School and Winchester College.

The overall standard of debating was excellent, so this was a really good experience for our speakers and they deserve many congratulations for their efforts.

 

King’s College London Schools Competition

Six students from Years 12 & 13 represented the school in our first London competition of term, at King’s College. The field of 56 teams from London and the Home Counties was one of the strongest I have seen at a schools’ event, with a high proportion of speakers representing ‘big name’ independent schools such as Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s Girls.

In each of our teams an experienced speaker was paired with a ‘novice’ making his/her competition debut. In the first debate, TBSHS made up the ‘bottom half’ of the debate “This House Supports the Rise of Automation”.  Supporting the motion Caroline O’Prey argued that increased automation reduces the exploitation of workers and also offers new opportunities for disabled people.

Nathaniel Carn made some good new points against the motion, introducing the potential effects of AI on the medical and legal professions and pointing out that robots cannot fight for workers’ rights. Supporting Caroline, Alfie Aylett’s summary speech was well-structured and correctly identified the key points in the debate. 

Finally, Scott Lockie launched a stinging arrack on the proposed notion that inactivity breeds creativity and gave a neat, thorough resumé of the Opposition case.

The second debate that I watched also featured two TBSHS teams, this time both opposing the motion, which required the Proposition, as the feminist movement to support conscription for women, in countries where it exists for men. Opening for the Opposition, Christian Stimpson attacked the moral integrity of conscription and argued that feminists should promote gender equality by campaigning for the total abolition of conscription. He also claimed that female conscription would only militarise society more. Robbie Power backed him up well, offering rebuttal to opponents and dealing confidently with their points of information. He also extended Christian’s argument that conscription acts against personal liberty, which is part of the philosophy of the women’s movement

Closing the case for the Opposition, Alfie & Caroline concentrated more on the practical aspects of the motion. Alfie reminded us that, in World Wat II, women staying at home rather than fighting earned respect for their gender by keeping the country running. Caroline, in her first Whip’s speech, fulfilled all the required functions of a summary speaker.

None of our teams had a very successful morning, gaining only 3rd and 4th places, but thereafter their fortunes improved considerably. In the third round, Scott & Nathaniel spoke first against the motion “This House Believes That Governments in Developing Countries Should Remove People from Areas Prone to Natural Disasters”. Nathaniel began by saying that the role of governments is to enable their citizens rather than tell them what to do and emphasised the importance of a sense of place, especially if it has religious significance for its residents. 

Scott attacked the opening speaker’s definition of the motion, pointing out the difficulty which areas are prone to natural disasters – would this include the whole of New Zealand? He also suggested that if these areas are used for agriculture implementing the motion would severely affect food supplies. TBSHS gained a second place in this room, a result matched by Robbie & Christian opposing the motion, with Caroline & Alfie, opening the debate, picking up a 3rd.

The final motion of the day was, thankfully, briefer than those in the previous two rounds, with two TBSHS teams opening for each side of “This House Regrets the Rise of Political Satire” in the same room. Proposing, Christian cunningly emphasised the word “rise”, stating that he was not against political satire itself but felt that it is now everywhere and has overshadowed all other forms of political discourse. He also criticised the quality of much of it. In response, Caroline argued that all political satire exposes the faults in government policies and I was pleased to see her putting judges’ feedback from earlier debates into action by explaining why this was important. Robbie also showed that he had taken advice aboard by making the structure of his speech more evident, signposting his arguments clearly and explaining that governments need some respect in order to function properly. Alfie then produced his most effective speech of the day, answering several of Robbie & Christian’s points, before going on to argue that the rise of political satire had simplified politics and making it more relevant for many people, thus acting as a gateway to their involvement.

The two teams in the ‘bottom half’ contributed very little that was new to the debate and Alfie & Caroline won the room, narrowly beating Christian & Robbie into second place. Meanwhile Scott & Nathaniel adopted what they admitted was a high-risk interpretation of the motion that the judge did not appreciate and placed them fourth. They had no luck with the draw all day and finished 47th overall. After losing to one of the eventual top six teams in the morning, Robbie & Christian came 44th, while Caroline & Alfie improved with every round and gained a 42nd place finish.

Given the quality of their opponents and the inexperience of some of our speakers, these results represent creditable achievements on the part of the TBSHS students who all remained determined and cheerful in adversity and were excellent ambassadors for the school.

A.D.Fraser

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Saturday 4 April 2020

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