Debating

All our students practice public speaking in the classroom, at school assemblies and house events. For those with a special interest, Year 8 and Year 10 students represent the college in inter-school debating.

Here, Year 8 student and debater Gavin Thomas reports on the 2014 house debating competition.

All four houses offered up one debating team of three people for each of the three age categories.  On Wednesday 27 August, these teams faced off against each other in the Phoenix Theatre to see which house had superior debating skills. The debates were both educational and fun for the debaters and audience, fulfilling the goal of house debating.

For the year 11 and 12 debates, the first and longest of the debates, the topics were ‘That education kills creativity’ and ‘That it is better to be honest and poor than dishonest and rich’. These complex topics were examined in depth and argued in a logical, engaging and downright entertaining way. The audience left the theatre with a good education in debating.

For the year 9 and 10 debates, the topics were ‘That it is never appropriate for the government to restrict freedom of speech’ and ‘That smokers should not have access to Medicare health benefits’. As you might expect, these topics led to two energetic and highly political debates where the debaters proved that government is relevant, interesting and highly complex.

The year 7 and 8 debates were the last of the day. The topics were ‘That the internet causes more harm than good’ and ‘That fashion causes more harm than good’. There was a range of debating styles, from animated, flamboyant and witty arguments spoken from memory to stone-cold, seriously recited arguments read from cue cards. This demonstrated that we have some future debaters in our midst and some seriously confident speakers.

According to teacher, competition organiser and judge Angela Pollock, the event was a success. "House debating helps combine academic prowess with House competitive spirit and teamwork,” said Ms Pollock. “Everyone has valued and evidenced opinions, and it's fantastic to see students debating the social, moral and political issues of our time. This year was better than ever.” According to Ms Pollock, highlights were the professionalism of the teams, the theatricality of the argumentative 'entertainers' on the teams, the in-depth complexities of the arguments presented, and the audiences' thoughtful responses. “Overall, those who presented and those who helped research should be very proud of their contribution."

Though everyone should be proud of their achievements, there can only be one winner. A week later, in school assembly, we learned that the house with the most debating skill was Byron. Congratulations to the debaters of Byron, and may you always find a way to invalidate your opposition’s arguments.

And again, Gavin Thomas reports on a victory for the Elwood College Debate Team.

Elwood's debate team beat Wesley College team 3 in the first fully secret topic debate of the season.

Just an hour before the June 17 debate, our speakers Tully Mauritzen, Oscar Carveth and Sol Charles, supported by myself, found out the debate topic: “We should use corporal punishment, such as caning, to punish crime”. The Elwood team was affirmative, meaning we had to argue for this statement.

The preparation time was stressful. We drew on all we knew about corporal punishment and Victoria’s prison system, without the assistance of faculty supervisor, Susan McDonald, to write the speeches. We also tried to anticipate the negative team’s arguments to prepare our rebuttals.

Our arguments mainly rested on economic and social platforms. We defined the corporal punishment as physical beatings administered by the State department of justice. We also stated how we thought corporal punishment would be administered, with a trial taking place to discover guilt followed by the punishment being carried out and a maximum of five years in rehabilitation. This would be more cost-effective than prison. It might keep people from becoming repeat offenders instead of being packed together with hardened criminals who could influence them to do worse things. We argued that the money saved from this system could be spent on crime prevention, such as educating young people about crime and punishment. We said that certain measures could be taken to ensure the punishments did not seriously harm offenders, such as a leather breastplate to protect vital organs. So, the system we spoke of could save money, reduce repeat offences and still not seriously harm prisoners.

The negative team, Wesley College 3, mostly gave arguments about social consequences. They argued that the psychological effect of beatings might outweigh that of prison, which Elwood countered by saying that in prison you had more time to think and grow hatred and fear of the government. They argued that if people saw beatings taking place, they might become vigilantes and carry out punishment themselves and even incorporate it into schools. Elwood rebutted both these arguments by restating that a fair trial would still take place, and punishments would only be carried out by police. Another Wesley argument was that corporal punishment was abolished a long time ago and Australia had already decided to move on from it. In rebuttal, Elwood said the current system was too expensive, crowded and, in some cases, ineffective, so we need to look at the past to find a better system.

The adjudicator gave his remarks, including tips on preparing for a secret topic and that we should avoid reading directly off cue cards. He awarded the victory to Elwood by one point and named Oscar Carveth the best speaker. Winning the secret topic debate has given us confidence for our next and final debate.