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Inter-House Debating Competition

11 March 2014

On Thursday 6th March, the Centenary Hall played host to the  for the 2nd time.  Each house had 3 representatives and these teams had been given time to prepare their semi-final debates. These were arranged as follows:

Semi Final 1:

 ‘This House believes that extra-curricular activities should be formally recognised.’ 

Government: Wood

Opposition: Cooper

Semi Final 2:

‘This house believes that the British Police should be armed.’

 Government: Jenkins

Opposition: McArthur

The first semi-final saw J. Trew open his case by outlining the positive outcomes that could result from making extra-curricular activities as important as academic subjects. C. Tallis then replied for Cooper by pointing out the dangers of such an approach and by noting that it is academic achievements that really matter during later life. R. Peel then launched into a defence of extra-curricular activities, delivering a poised and well-structured speech that introduced the idea that, in the future, soft skills (such as teamwork and being able to handle challenges well) will be just as important as exam results. He also reminded the audience, and his opposition, that if they opposed the motion, they opposed debate club and therefore their very presence in the competition. J. Fennell then took to the floor to present an impassioned counter-argument, discussing various aspects of the value of non-compulsory activities as well as using ridiculous examples of extra-curricular topics within academic circles, such as 'The philosophy of The Simpsons.' He demanded that the 'virus' of dumbing down be removed in order to protect academic achievements. It was then the turn of the questioners to pick holes in the arguments of their opponents. First up, T. Ward asked where Wood would get the money from to fund these new, compulsory programmes; would they perhaps begin by scrapping History teachers. Wood replied well, before sending L. Polturak out to question the Cooper position. Perhaps his most telling point was the fact that we have no idea what skills will be important in 20 years’ time, so therefore surely the best way to prepare would be to teach the widest number of skills during formal education. With the debate having drawn to a close, our guest adjudicator, Father David Elliot from The Oratory School, delivered his feedback, before declaring Cooper the winner.

Next up were Jenkins and McArthur. B. Andreae began for the Government by quoting various statistics showing that gun crime was on the increase and that therefore the British Police Force needed to be protected. F. Heffer, as McArthur's Chairman, then responded in turn by delivering a statistic suggesting that the crime rate in Britain was in fact decreasing, begging the question: why fix what isn't broken?

It was then the turn of the two speakers: A. Sanga for Jenkins and M. Du Toit for McArthur. Sanga reiterated the fact that British Police needed protecting from violent criminals, before moving onto the more philosophical question as to the death penalty. Surely, he asked, if Britain is against the death penalty, then it must be against making Police judges, juries and executioners by giving them guns. Du Toit responded by pointing out that police with guns make communities feel safer and that just the mere presence of guns would deter criminals in the first place. He finished by noting that, in some ways, British police are already armed (with taser guns and water cannons) and therefore the opposition's argument was already lost.

Finally, it was the turn of the questioners. S. Eyre raised the issue of sending police into situations at an unfair advantage, while W. Hobbs reminded the audience of the negative impact armed police have had on the crime rate in America. Having heard both sides, Father David came to the conclusion that McArthur had been the more effective debaters and sent them through the final to face Cooper.

The teams were given 20 minutes to prepare for the final debate, which was unknown to the boys until they had won their semi-finals. McArthur would be arguing for the merits of single-sex education, while Cooper would be opposing it. Having heard from both Chairmen, the speakers (Fennel for Cooper and Du Toit for McArthur) implored the audience to support their point of view. Du Toit argued that boys needed as much preparation for the real world as possible and therefore should be exposed to girls as soon as possible. Fennel replied with a piece of self-depreciation, pointing out that boys drag girls down in academic environments and that boys would be distracted if girls were present in the classroom. 

The questioners then took to the floor, Ward for Cooper and Hobbs for McArthur. Ward raised the question of the natural immaturity of boys, while Hobbs again re-iterated the fact that the real world, and many of the future schools Caldicott boys attend, would involve both sexes, and that, in fact, having girls in the classroom would drive boys' standards up through competitiveness. Having heard both sides of the debate, Father David congratulated all the boys on their performances before noting that McArthur had worked very well as a team and declaring them the overall winners.