TBSHS Speakers Compete in London
Three Competitions for the Debating Team
The first of three competitions held at universities in London required a very early start for all our speakers, but by 8:30 am on a cold Saturday morning, all four TBSHS speakers and their coach had checked in for four rounds of debating at Imperial College for our first ‘in person’ competition of 2023.
All the motions, which covered the rise of social media as a primary news source, strikes in the public sector, removing gender-based award categories in the Arts and making development aid dependent on good human rights practices, proved to be accessible and appropriate to the speakers involved. The standard of debating was high, with teams from St Paul’s Girls and Eton dominating the final results tables.
The TBSHS teams of Max Porter & Rohan Rana (Year 13) and Henry Aylett & Lewis Ng (Year 11) did not enjoy the best of luck in some of the judgements that they received. Both teams achieved their best results in the second round, where they were drawn in the same room and formed the whole ‘opening half’ of the debate. Speaking first in favour of banning public sector workers from striking, Speaking confidently, as he did all day, Henry defined the terms of the motion and argued that such strikes generate a rift in society and civil unrest They are, he said, therefore unpopular and damage the workers’ cause. In a well-structured speech, Max responded by pointing out that strikes are newsworthy and increase public awareness on poor working conditions as well as low pay. He also referred to the power of the employee, adding that better working conditions and pay result in happier, healthier workers who deliver a better service. Lewis began with some useful rebuttal. Then, stressing the moral aspects of the motion, he observed that, as well as rights, workers have responsibilities to the users of their services, who suffer harm to their health and education through strikes. He described strike action on such circumstances as “blackmail”. Rohan described public sector strikes as “a last resort for workers when all other tactics have failed” and added that they cause much soul-searching for those involved. He went on to dismiss the idea that the workers are not forced to stay in their jobs by decrying the loss of highly-trained professionals to emigration or different jobs. The other two teams in the debate represented King’s School Canterbury and South Hampstead High School, both independent schools worth a good record in this sort of competition, so Lewis & Henry can feel very pleased with their first place in this debate, while Rohan & Max were only just edged out of second place.
Henry & Lewis gained a second place in the last round and finished 35th out of 48 teams, with Max & Rohan not far behind. This was a tough competition for our speakers- Henry and Max were both representing TBSHS for the first time and none of them had competed for the school in person before.
London School of Economics & Political Science
The first Sunday of half-term saw three teams of TBSHS students competing at LSE, over three rounds of closely fought debates. The newly-formed pair of Rohan Rana (Year 13) & Robert Gor (Year 10), speaking second against the implementation of an open curriculum for secondary schools, got off to a winning start, defeating, among others, a team who had flown in from Bombay specially for the competition. Robert explained how important key skills are, cast doubt on the ability of younger secondary students to make the best subject choices and, crucially, argued that it would be very difficult for students wishing to take up a subject later in their school career to catch up on the material they had missed. Summing up, Rohan made much of this last point to attack the claims that an open curriculum is more flexible and offers greater opportunity to change courses, as well as stressing the importance of student welfare. In their room, Aidan Quinn & Oliver Worthy (Year 12) opened the debate and were placed second, ahead of another team from India.. Speaking first against the motion, Alex Banhidai & Luca Ollandini (Year 12) finished a very close third.
The second debate of the day involved a very topical motion “This House, as Prince Harry, Regrets publishing the memoir ‘ Spare’”. Facing teams from Dulwich College and Eton, Oliver had to open the case against the motion. He focussed very much on right to speak out and hold the Royal Family to account and how this would have had a positive effect on his mental health. He was well backed up by Aidan, who argued that seeking popularity is less important than doing what is right and speaking out about abuse. Seeing Harry do so, he said, would encourage members of the public to do the same. Against such strong opponents, third place was a very encouraging result. Meanwhile, our other two teams were both closing the case for the motion and gaining second places, with Luca & Alex only beaten by a very strong team from St Paul’s Girls and Rohan & Robert just behind another team from Eton. The organisers provided pizza for lunch, which we able to enjoy al fresco before returning for the third debate of the day.
The motion “This House Believes that, in a country where compulsory military service for men exists, feminists should argue for the conscription of women”. Their earlier successes had put Rohan & Robert into the same room as some of the best teams and they had to be content with a disappointing fourth place. The other two TBSHS teams were drawn in the same room, closing each side of the debate. Unfortunately, they both fell into the trap of focussing too much on the relative capabilities of men & women in warfare rather than what view of conscription should be taken by feminists. Consequently Oliver & Aidan gained third place, just ahead of Alex & Luca. Despite these disappointing results, Robert & Rohan finished in 19th place out of 40 teams, with Aidan & Oliver 27th and Luca & Alex 33rd.
University College London
The following Saturday saw six more TBSHS students, two of them recently returned from half-term school trips, in debating action, this time at UCL. The first motion, accompanied by an explanatory information slide was “This House Would allow Chat GPT for all school work”. All three of our teams found themselves in the traditionally more difficult ‘bottom half’ of the debate in their rooms. Supporting the motion Lewis Ng & Henry Aylett (Year 11) argued that the use of ChatGPT would be more efficient for students, making them less reliant on teachers, who cannot answer multiple questions from students at the same time.. Their speeches were well-structured and they challenged their opponents with plenty of Points of Information, but unfortunately they finished narrowly in fourth place. In their rooms, Georgi Petkov & Tom Millar (Year 13), also supporting the motion and Emily Precious & Henry Davis (Year 12), who had to oppose it, were both awarded third places.
After an early lunch and a chance to explore the Bloomsbury area, our two Sixth Form teams found themselves in the same room, debating whether or not the environment movement should focus on changing the actions of individuals rather than those of institutions. Opening the debate, Henry argued that consumer pressure would have the most effect on corporations and so educating individuals to change their lifestyle should be a priority. In response, Tom referred to deforestation in Brazil and pointed out that, globally, 71% of emissions come from industry. Therefore, he said, convincing governments and corporations of the need for change would have a far greater and wide-ranging impact. Responding to his speech, Emily spoke of the need to attract individuals who would go on to work for, or run, institutions to the environmental cause, so that they could influence policies from within organisations. This, she argued, would be far more effective than the disruptive actions of pressure groups. Georgi stressed the fact that the financial resources of the environmental movement has limited financial resources and must use them efficiently, so aiming to influence institutions directly is better than exerting pressure via individuals. The judge awarded him & Tom an undeserved (in my opinion) fourth place, with Emily & Henry second behind a strong team from St Paul’s School for Girls. Meanwhile, Henry & Lewis, closing the case against the motion, won in their room. As one of the other teams came from a Sixth Form college in Cardiff, they claimed this as an international victory!
The subject of our teams’ last motion of the day was parenting styles, contrasting adulthood focussed parenting, which emphasises competition and achievement and childhood focussed, which places more importance on play and enjoyment. Henry Davis opened the bottom half of the debate, supporting the adulthood focus and stressing its long-term benefits and the motivation that it provides. Summarising, Emily emphasised that it is part of a parent’s role to instil structure in a child’s life. She also identified the clash between the two sides over the nature of adulthood focussed parenting, accusing the Opposition as wrongly characterising it as tyranny. Unfortunately these arguments did not impress the judges and the TBSHS team had to be content with fourth place, a fate shared by Lewis & Henry. However, Georgi & Tom recorded their best result of the day, winning the verdict over another Cardiff pair as well as Tiffin School and City of London Boys. This victory moved them up to 22nd place out of 40 teams, with Henry Aylett & Lewis in 32nd place, just ahead of Henry Davis & Emily in 34th .
With teams from some of the best-known schools in and around London, the standard of debating in all three of these competitions was high and our students found them quite demanding. .Nevertheless, they never allowed their heads to drop and engaged fully with their opponents, both within debates and, socially, outside them. They gained valuable experience and all of them said that they had enjoyed the events, which augurs well for the future of TBSHS debating.