This term, our keen debaters have made the most of our weekly Debating Clubs to practise their skills, learn more about debating and to explore the issues of our time.
It has been a real pleasure to hold mixed year group debates this term. Now that we are in the thick of competition season, our debaters have been visiting each other’s sessions and helping to Chair, participate in and even score each other’s debates.
As well as being an intellectual sport, at its heart debating is about giving the issues of our time the airing and evaluation that they need. In their final debate of Lent 1, our senior debaters took on the motion: This House believes that government regulation of social media is required to prevent the spread of misinformation. This was a debate that quickly and inevitably led to a point of clash over whether we should champion "truth" or "freedom". Orwell was first mentioned by Elliot Cosnett, the Leader of the Opposition and was much referenced throughout the debate.
Because competition debating usually features a short preparatory window of fifteen minutes with no access to electronic materials to aid the gathering of evidence, our debaters rely on intuitions, common knowledge and on drawing creative connections and analogies. It is always fascinating to where these are derived from.
To all of our Year 10 pupils currently studying ‘1984’, I would highly recommend you watch the recorded senior debate, which not only featured several direct quotations from the novel but also discussions about whether governmental regulation of social media could pave the way to a dystopian reality. Samuel Manship closed his speech as Opposition Whip by questioning the room about where the diminishing of our freedom of speech would stop. In Orwell’s words, he stated that it could be with the kind of reality that amounted to, ‘a boot stamping on a human face - forever.’
One of the most impressive points of clash was the sticking point of whether the education of children as critical thinkers would be a better option for the management of misinformation than government regulation of social media. The opposition argued that we shouldn’t “hurry misinformation away from children” an idea developed by our Captain of Debating, Milan in his argument that government regulation would be akin to, “soothing us with lullabies whilst simultaneously duct-taping our mouths shut”.
On a similar theme, our Year 8 and 9 debaters participated in a debate about whether the dangers of social media outweighed the benefits this week. Fake news, the vulnerability of young people and our growing dependency on technology were all were all weighed up against the ways that social media can and does benefit us since we are, in the eloquent words of Ryan Ruparellia, “sociable creates who need to bond with others”. I tasked the debaters with proving not only that their arguments were true in this debate but also to use analysis to prove that their arguments were the most important. They absolutely rose to the challenge!
Safety, liberties, education and the global context for the motions were all debated comprehensively by our Year 8-U6 debaters this week. It is wonderful to see the Warwick School debaters in action, proving in no uncertain terms that as Joubert said, “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”
Interested in debating? See details of our clubs below. All are welcome!
Year 7 and 8 Debating: Tuesday 4-4.45pm with Mrs Wyatt
Year 9 Debating: Monday 4-4.45pm with Mrs Hardiman
Senior Debating (Y10-U6): Tuesday 4-5pm with Mrs Hardiman
On Saturday 6 March our youngest debaters took part in an extremely prestigious competition: the International Competition for Young Debaters. Teams from around the world take part and this year it took place on Zoom.
The level was exceptionally high and there were no concessions made to the young age of many of our competitors with the teams expecting to quickly understand whether their role was ‘Government Whip’ or ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ in the parlance of British Parliamentary Debating.
The motions were also, arguably, harder than the senior competition with topics such as the use of graphic images in advertising campaigns and whether developmental aid should be dependent on the political stability of the country receiving aid.
The team included: Pranav Raja, Ryan Taylor, Ryan Ruparellia and Freddie Wyatt in Year 9 with Oscar Watkin, Zain Iqbal, Tom Russell and Ptolemy Walton-Hayfield in Year 8.
All of our debaters spoke fantastically well and we saw some very impressive team performances across the four rounds of the competition.
Last Saturday, eight of our Senior Debaters: Milan Oakland, Elliot Cosnett, Gabriel D’Souza, Jonty Wood, Angus Day, Atticus Walton-Hayfield, Sebastian Duffy and Arjan Paneser, competed in the regional stage of the Cambridge Union Schools’ Debating Competition.
It was a day-long event with four rounds of British Parliamentary-style debating. Motions were varied, tackling a range of social and political issues that required the debaters to draw on their wider knowledge and critical thinking skills to develop robust and compelling arguments that would stand up to the scrutiny of the opposition.
In the first round, I watched Milan and Elliot eloquently oppose the motion, ‘This house would make voting compulsory’. Milan swiftly outlined the harms that would come from implementing the motion, addressing the undermining of the legitimacy of voting and perhaps most importantly, the principle of voting as a ‘right’ rather than a ‘duty’. Milan underscored his arguments with a sustained focus on the perversity of a system whereby we should be ‘forced into making a choice’. Elliot quickly picked up on this in his speech as he outlined the risks of 'coercion' and 'donkey voting' as a result of political apathy, powerfully reinforcing the notion that ‘compulsion is not engagement’.
Gabriel and Jonty had to propose that they would ‘make university admissions a randomised lottery’ in the second round. Certainly not the easiest motion to argue in favour of but the pair of them tackled it with robust arguments centred around the need for ‘equality of opportunity, wealth distribution and the need to increase competition to raise the standards of all universities’. Their characteristic teamwork and flair for rebutting arguments at the highest level, led them to develop a convincing set of closing speeches for the proposition that concluded with Jonty imploring the house to vote to ‘do the noble thing’.
It was fantastic to have Year 10 and 11 pupils at the CUDC. Atticus teamed up with Angus for the competition and I watched them debate in the third round of the day where they were coincidentally matched with Milan and Elliot to form the proposition. Their motion, ‘This house would make parents pass a test before having children’ required them to convince the floor how such a motion could be practically and ethically set in motion. Angus and Atticus worked efficiently and boldly to challenge the status quo, building arguments up from what they presented as the flawed logic of ‘allowing parents to learn on the job’.
In the fourth round, I saw Sebastian and Arjan take their second win of the competition as they proposed a highly realistic and well-illustrated plan to ‘ban zoos’ globally. Zoos, or in Sebastian’s words, ‘amplifiers for animal cruelty’ were presented as being unacceptable because of the driving interests of ‘free market innovation of competition’ and the damaging ‘changes to animal behaviour’ that they effect. Arjan took these arguments further with a concrete focus on zoos as shattering ‘the structural integrity of the food chain and natural law’ and with an ethical challenge on the entitlement of humans who lock away and dominate animals that are ‘older than us’.
Our four teams performed extremely well throughout the competition, debating with technical skill and handling topics with insight and creativity. Overall, three of our teams were placed first in at least one round and they all received some excellent feedback and high scores from the judges.
Arjan Paneser and Sebastian Duffy placed particularly highly as a result of two wins and a second placing, which left them tied on team points with several teams at the top of the ranking, including one of the five qualifying teams. In spite of one tricky round, they had better placings than the fifth team that qualified for Finals Day but just lost out on speaker points.
A huge well done to all of our Senior Debaters for representing the school so admirably, both on the day and in their thorough preparation for it.
Last Thursday, eight of our Senior Debaters: Milan Oakland, Elliot Cosnett, Gabriel D’Souza, Jonty Wood, Ben Barnes, Cornelius Adkins-Hudd, Max Mather and Sebastian Duffy, competed in the regional rounds of the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition.
In the first round, the motion, This House believes doctors should be able to lie to their patients when they believe it is in the interest of their health, provoked lively debate about the practical and moral implications of doctors being given this freedom and this responsibility to bear.
Our Warwick School teams argued both sides of the motion with care and maturity. I was lucky enough to watch Milan and Elliot debate this round and they impressed the judges by opposing the motion on its underlying principles. They addressed the issue that doctors might be put under a burden of pressure to withhold the truth with the argument that “honesty is in the interest of everyone’s health”. Milan also explored the broader philosophical implications of the motion, nesting his arguments within the conclusive statement, “If lying was universalised, there would be no truth.”
In the second round of the competition, debaters proposed or opposed the abstract and challenging motion, This House supports the narrative that one’s identity should determine the credibility of one’s perspective on social justice issues.
Our Year 13 team, Gabriel and Jonty were drawn as Closing Government, extending the arguments in favour of this motion. They handled the debate with great skill, expanding and illustrating their ideas with careful reference to their own lived experiences and their wider understanding of this topical issue. They pragmatically challenged the opposition’s claims that we live in a society where free will, free speech and equality prevail by raising issues such as hidden prejudices and white saviourism. Gabriel and Jonty exemplified the teamwork required to develop robust arguments, challenging the status quo and theming their speeches around the need for "compassion" and "absolute equality" to ensure social progress.
While our teams just missed the break for Finals Day, they received very positive feedback from the judges in both rounds of the competition. The best way to achieve the highest standards as a debater is to debate in competitions and our Senior Debaters’ evaluations of their performances at Debating Club this evening evinced their determination to continue to hone their skills as speakers.
We now look forward to the upcoming Cambridge Union Schools' Competition and the ICYD in February and March. Good luck to all of our teams in Years 8, 9, 12 and 13 who are currently preparing for these competitions – Mrs Wyatt and I look forward to seeing you in action!
House Debating report
A huge well done to everyone who participated in House Debating last half-term (see image above). Debates took place over four weeks and 120 of our pupils participated in the competition, with the motions ranging from the best ways to tackle the climate crisis to the most significant causes of pressure for teenagers in modern society. The debates were exciting, well-researched and extremely close. We have some very talented debaters in the school and we look forward to seeing more from them in the future.
The winning Houses for each year group were as follows:
Year 7: Tudor
Year 8: Greville
Year 9: Guy
Year 10: Tudor
Year 11: Guy
When all the competition scores were added together, the rankings of the Houses for the Warwick School House Debating competition 2020-21 were as follows:
First place: Guy
Second place: Tudor
Third place: Brooke
Fourth place: Leycester
Fifth place: Oken
Sixth place: Greville
Congratulations to Guy and thanks again to all of the competitors.
Upcoming Debating events
In addition to our regular Debating Club fixtures this term, the Warwick School debaters will also be participating online in regional rounds for three national competitions. Our Sixth Form debaters will be competing in the Oxford Schools' Debating Competition and the Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition and our Year 8 and 9 debaters will be competing in the International Competition for Young Debaters.
The dates and times for these are as follows:
The Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition - Saturday 27th February (times to be confirmed)
The International Competition for Young Debaters - Saturday 6th March (times to be confirmed)
Preparation for these will take place in our weekly Debating Clubs. We look forward to seeing lots of our keen debaters showing off their skills!