A Busy Weekend for TBSHS Debaters

Debating team in action on two successive days

Oxford Schools Regional Round

The last weekend of February saw TBSHS debaters in action on two successive days, on both occasions online. After school on the Friday, four pairs of speakers gathered to take part in two rounds of debating in the regional round of the Oxford University Schools competition. Over fifty teams from the eastern side of England, as far North as Bradford were competing for eight places at the international Finals’ Day.

The first motion was “This House Believes that the glamourisation of start-up culture (e.g. Shark Tank) does more harm than good”. Year 12 students Emily Precious & Izzy Scott had to close the case for the motion. In her first competition, Izzy, who only started debating in September, argued that people are more important than corporations She said that a society of CEOs is unsupportable and criticised the glamourisation of start-up culture for downgrading the efforts of the majority of workers. In her well-structured summary speech, Emily pointed out that glamourisation raises false expectations, as only a small fraction of start-up businesses succeed and linked this to a detrimental effect on mental health. The debate was won by a very strong team from The Perse School that finished top of the final standings, with the TBSHS team claiming a very pleasing second place.

A confident display from Henry Aylett & Lewis Ng (Year 11), closing against the motion, earned them a similar result, behind a Norwich School pair. Meanwhile our other Year 12 team, Alex Banhidai & Luca Ollandini, opened the debate and gained their first victory of the season, defeating teams from Oundle, Bradford & Bury St Edmunds. Year 11 students Aryan Armani & Ravi Jethwa, the latter making his interschool debut, were placed third.

In the second round, teams debate against those with similar first-round results as theirs, which meant that Luca & Alex found themselves faced with the difficult task of closing the case against the abolition of private schools, very much against their principles, in a room of very strong teams. Luca championed the cause of allowing parents to spend money on their children’s education if they wish to and argued that that implementing the motion would undermine British history and traditions. Summarising, Alex identified the clash between practicality and the desire for equality as a key issue and stated that abolishing well-resourced private schools with smaller class sizes, would cause a ‘levelling down’ of educational standards. Despite their best efforts, TBSHS were placed fourth. Lewis & Henry also had to oppose the motion and did well to salvage a third place behind strong teams from Norwich School and Gresham’s. Opening the debate in his room, Ravi’s impressive performance belied his inexperience and was supported by a solid effort from Aryan, leading to a pleasing second place. Izzy & Emily facing two teams from Oundle, gained a third place ahead of New Hall.

In the final standings, Alex & Luca’s run of bad luck continued, as they finished 9th, just a point off qualification for Finals Day. The two year 11 teams were both well placed, with Henry & Lewis in 16th place and Aryan & Ravi 18th. Emily & Izzy achieved 25th spot, completing a very satisfying set of results for the school.

Two of our star debaters from last year, now in Higher Education, were also involved. Elliot Wood ran the whole event with calm efficiency, patiently ensuring that even the most inexperienced speakers knew what was expected of them and guest judge Finn Lihoreau offered valuable tips for improvement in his feedback.

Imperial College Juniors

The following day, while hundreds of their fellow students battled it out at Jobbers Wood in the interhouse football, two Year 10 teams spent the day at school competing in a competition organised by Imperial College London. In the first of three rounds, both our teams had to support the legalisation of performance-enhancing drugs in sport, speaking in the traditionally more demanding ‘bottom half’ of the debate.

Owen Cody reinforced earlier points about ‘levelling the playing field’ and added some good new arguments, in particular that doctors and researchers could work openly on legalised drugs, ensuring greater safety for athletes and potential new developments or more general use. In his summary speech, James Drury, who raised some telling points of information in this debate, refuted several of the Opposition arguments and asked, “Who wants the cheats to win?” Unfortunately, as the adjudicator told them, our speakers needed to include more explanation of why their predictions would happen and why their arguments outweighed those of the other teams. Consequently, their day began with a fourth place. J J Sathan & Robert Gor fared rather better in their room, being awarded second place ahead of an Eton team.

The second debate involved banning religious schools. Robert opened the case for the motion with a rather narrow definition of a religious school, which fortunately went unchallenged. He argued that it is not the place of a school to indoctrinate students, some of whom may not follow the same religion but have no alternative choice of school. J J explained that indoctrination breeds intolerance and morality is not the same thing as religion. He concluded that it is much better to teach students about different religions and let them develop their own beliefs from an informed position. Their well-expressed arguments earned the TBSHS team second place, but James & Owen, opposing the motion, had to be content with being placed fourth in their room.

After the first debate, teams are drawn against those with similar results in earlier rounds, so is was clear that our more successful team would face a real challenge speaking first against

the motion that “This House opposes the narrative that people should pursue something that they love as a chore”. J J referenced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and argued that satisfying work represents the best opportunity for self-actualisation and fulfilling one’s own potential. Robert backed him up well, reminding his opponents that with the retirement age steadily rising, everyone is spending longer at work and hence job satisfaction is even more important to mental health & wellbeing. The debate was won by a team from St Paul’s School that finished third overall, but the TBSHS team claimed another very pleasing second place. Meanwhile Owen & James, opening their debate, were awarded a third place.