Last week, 4 members of the debating and public speaking society at our school took part in the ‘Frankly Speaking’ Debating competition. This competition was hosted by the American Embassy in London and the DAR Walter Hines Page Chapter and Bloomberg. The first debating heats were held at the Benjamin Franklin house, to honour Franklin’s beliefs, exemplifying and celebrating the primacy of reason and critical thought.
L. Seddat and I, took part in the Mace format debates where we discussed the very intriguing first motion; ‘This house believes that the London Congestion charge should be abolished’. As the opposition, we delivered interesting and thought-provoking ideas. We suggested the importance of recognising the irreversible effects it’s abolition will have on our environment, raising the concerns of poor air quality on the health and standard of living of commuters, residents and key workers. Additionally, we argued that it generates a more pedestrian-friendly environment, and it’s revenue in turn, presents an opportunity to invest in infrastructure that better supports the public.
The second motion we argued in support of was, ‘This House believes that the voting age should be lowered to 16’. We felt very strongly and passionately about this motion, and hoped to convey this in our debate. We argued that individual freedom is essential for progression in society. Moreover, this will also act as a way of encouraging political awareness among young adults. Adolescents are major contributors to society, and if we are capable of being significant and beneficial members to it, it is essential that we have a say in the way that we live our lives. Lastly, knowledge should not be a limiting factor for someone’s right to vote, as Political beliefs and knowledge are ultimately subjective and vary among people and communities. We argued that this is the art of diverse beliefs and thinking; this is what allows for there to be varying opinions and mindsets, and evidently what leads to innovation and reformation.
These heats were followed by the semi-finals, with the very interesting motion, ‘‘This House believes that STEM subjects should be valued more highly than the arts’. After all the heats, we travelled to the American Embassy for the finals to be held. Firstly, we were fortunate enough to be welcomed by the American Ambassador Philip T. Reeker. His inspiring speech applauded students for taking the initiative to participate in debating and public speaking, addressing how essential it is not only as an ability for the future, but as a skill for everyday life. We were also invited to look at many pieces of artwork exhibited around the embassy, showcasing culture and diversity. This was followed by the final motion, ‘This house believes that publishing fake news should be a crime’. This was an extremely topical motion, selected by the organisers in light of the current situation occurring in Ukraine. This highlighted the urgent attention we need to give the many people suffering at the moment, and being able to understand their difficulties and support them, through reliable and supported sources.
This experience was extremely enriching and we feel very honoured to have attended. A special thank you to Ms Coutts and Mr Vadhwana for their ongoing support and guidance, and for giving us the opportunity to take part in this!