A New Debating Season
Photos, L-R: Georgi Petkov, Tom Millar, Toby Ford
November saw a new season of interschool debating kick off with the traditional first round of the ESU Mace, involving 6 (fairly) local schools. For this event we were still competing online. In the first contest of the evening, a very young team from Parkside Community College (Cambridge) proposed that all education policy should be set by education experts rather than politicians. All their speakers performed confidently, but they tended to repeat each other’s arguments. Their opponents, from The Perse School presented a more wide-ranging case and a better overview of the debate as a whole in their summary speech.
Our team of three Year 13 students had expected to face Herts & Essex in the third debate, but an administrative error and an extremely last-minute change to the schedule saw Tom Millar open the second debate, prosing a ban on the sale and consumption of meat, with Lister Academy from East London as the Opposition.
Tom very clearly laid out the terms of his case– a ban on the sale and human consumption of meat in the UK, to be introduced in 2040 after a process of education and incentivisation to encourage the change and allow time for adjustment – a consideration that the other side never really took on board. Tom focussed on the harm to animals caused by factory farming and questioned its morality, as well as explaining that the loss of freedom of choice would be outweighed by the importance of saving the planet.
Speaking second for TBSHS, Toby Ford reinforced this point before going on to consider the economic advantages of the motion, such as the land usage, reduction of bio waste and a vast reduction in global hunger. He also covered the benefits to human health, arguing that plant foodstuffs are considerably less likely to infect their consumers than meat, mentioning the resilience of a lettuce and making the inevitable reference to a certain former Prime Minister. The second Opposition speaker admitted that he was a vegetarian and then said that eating meat makes people healthier. This assertion and his argument about eating meat being part of certain religions were savaged by Georgi Petkov in a forceful summary speech that rounded off the debate.
The last motion, “This house would ban the use of digital manipulation in advertising, including social media ad content” was contested by two Cambridgeshire schools, Longsands Academy and St Mary’s School. Both sides put forward some good points but I felt that there was less engagement with each other’s arguments in this contest than in the other two debates.
After some well-balanced and mercifully concise general feedback, our ESU adjudicator announced that the teams going through to Round 2 would be The Perse, Longsands and TBSHS. Our speakers were rightly praised for well-structured speeches, the quality of response to their opponents and excellent teamwork. The students had worked hard in preparation and, while there are certainly some areas for improvement, this was a good all-round performance and the important objective of progressing in the competition was achieved.