Pupils in Years 6 and 7 have the opportunity to get involved in debating in a weekly club at Emanuel with Mr Keddie, Teacher of History & Politics. Here’s the lowdown on what debates took place in spring 2021. 

Week 11 (begins 23rd March)

“This House believes that History places far too much focus on men. Instead there should be more emphasis on the role of women in HERSTORY.”

Year 7

One girl and three boys attended this debate.

Macsen Morgan began by saying that “Herstory” is a silly word.  There are few contemporary sources on how women lived.  There were a few exceptional women who were important in the military and political worlds but they are very rare.  Macsen “despises” social history.  He thinks that women should NOT be artificially given a higher profile in military or political history simply in order to fit in with our modern ideas about society and about gender roles.

That said, he agreed that simply ONE double page spread about the lives of women in the current year 7 history textbook highlights the inadequacy of what we choose to teach.  There should be more on the daily life of the upper and lower classes.  More on the life of children as well as on the lives of women.  We need to be aware of how people thought in the past if we are to understand them, rather than mistakenly trying to impose our own current values on the past.  Some modification of the History curriculum is important, putting more emphasis on the role of women in society.

Elsa Lane strongly disagreed.  “Herstory” is a realistic way of focussing on the prejudice women have faced throughout history AND of highlighting how far attitudes towards the role of women have changed.  Women’s stories have usually been hidden stories.  The History syllabus should be covering much more than just politics and wars.  We should also be studying other things – the social status of women; the attitude of religion towards women; family life; day to day living, the history of medicine.  We should also put much more emphasis on the relatively few women who ARE recognised as politically and militarily significant – Queen Matilda; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Joan of Arc.  Elsa also wanted more focus on more recent history, because women play a much higher profile role in it (eg Twentieth Century).

Jun Howard wanted a different curriculum.  We should study history in order to learn from the past and change our current behaviour to change the future.  There should be more focus on what life was like – Farming; Trade; Town life.  What was life like in general; life outside the male elite; more recent events.  There should also be more on Non British subjects and cultures.

Rory Goss pointed out that we learn about men over 90% of the time and far too little about women.  Women are rarely recorded and had limited lives.  We should emphasise this in order to point out how much change there has been (but has there been ENOUGH change?)

Vote: the motion was PASSED by 4 votes to 0. There SHOULD be more emphasis on women in history.

Year 6

This was a passionately argued debate with many attendees – all girls!

Bethany Yonas called for both sexes to be treated equally in her/ his story.  She wanted more focus on female achievers, less focus on politics and war, and also more focus on relatively recent events and modern issues, such as the right to vote.

Kitty Wright wanted “their story” – not “history” or “herstory~.  Instead of simply abolishing learning about men we should aim for equality.  More focus on how we used to live, on family life, on children, on the lives of women.  Less focus on politics and military history.

Emilie Labatut agreed, there is not enough emphasis on the role of women in society.  The focus on the political and the military means that for most of human history we ignore the role of women.  The odd single lesson is mere tokenism.  We should acknowledge the role of women in history.  We should also acknowledge the role of the gender fluid, who are also largely ignored, and those lower in society and those from different cultures to our own.

Aoife Hermann agreed with Emilie about the need to focus much more on how women lived and on how the gender fluid lived.  She recognised the challenge in the argument that there was very little difference in how most people lived during most of history, especially where women were concerned, as there were very limited opportunities available.  Today, of course, the situation is transformed, but that tends not to be studied in the year 6, year 7 or even year 8 curriculum!

Flora Cole pointed out that men WERE seen as more important than women in the past – that history is affected by this.

Effie King called for more focus in multiculturalism, on more study of non European cultures, as well as on women.

Vote: 11 agreed with the motion and 0 voted against. There SHOULD be more emphasis on women in history.

Week 10 (begins 15th March)

“This House believes that the Monarchy should be abolished”.

Year 7

Elsa Lane called for the Monarchy to be abolished.  Yes, it brings in money from tourists and it carries a sense of history BUT it is unjustifiable.  It is a waste of tax payers’ money, costing too much.  The royals “don’t do much” and it is wrong to be of a high status simply because of hereditary privilege.  Our Monarchy are effectively powerless and are therefore pointless.  There is no need for anything to be put in place of the Monarchy – the palaces should just be opened up to the public to generate the revenue needed for their maintenance.

Max Essery disagreed.  The Monarchy brings in tourists and should be kept as a traditional symbol of Britain.  However, we should pay the Royal family less.

Macsen Morgan thought that the Monarchy should be retained because it is good for national morale.  It only costs the average citizen 50 pence a day.  The Royal family are an historic image and symbol of Great Britain and of the United Kingdom.  Although the Monarchy is NOT necessary for constitutional reasons it is also NOT powerful enough to be dangerous and can be safely left alone.  Harry and Meghan are not “working Royals” any more so have no relevance to the debate.  The Monarchy is simply not relevant in any meaningful way, so it can be largely ignored.  There IS an argument that the UK DOES need a Head of State to impress others, such as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia or Donald Trump.  This country has a unique asset, a figurehead around which we can be patriotic.  The criticism about inherited wealth and position is irrelevant – all rich peoples’ children are favoured.

Hugo Sonmez de Paz agreed that the Monarchy was not doing any harm, that the Queen does have an important symbolic role, and that all real power now lies with the Prime Minister, who has taken over the more important powers of the Monarchy (these are known as PREROGATIVE powers).

Jun Howard pointed out that British democratic values are based on effort and merit, NOT on inherited position (birth).  Social deference is a BAD thing.  We should abolish the Monarchy and spend the money saved on more rational things.

Alice Fang-Favard said that the Monarchy was very expensive, an “unnecessary extravagance”.  Taxes should be spent on the needy.

Callum Barton agreed that the Monarchy is expensive and unnecessary.

In contrast, Matthew Woodward said that the Monarchy clearly COULD be abolished, but why bother?  Just leave it, whilst encouraging it to be more socially aware.

Vote: the motion was passed (the Monarchy SHOULD be abolished) by 7 votes to 2.

Year 6

Kitty Wright called for the Monarchy to be abolished.  It is too expensive (although some Royals do make formal appearances).  Tourists would still come to this country, provided that Royal assets, like Windsor castle, were fully opened to the public.  Charities do not need a royal patron.  Inherited wealth is inherently a BAD thing.  We should have a meritocracy, not a society based on inherited privileges.  If you choose to bow, it should be because the person to whom you bow has achieved something you respect, not simply because you are expected to bow.

Grace Jeckells wanted to preserve the Monarchy out of a sense of respect for the past.  The Monarchy is a powerful historical symbol.  The Queen DOES meet the PM once a week. And she IS helpful.  She does have both influence and theoretical power, even if she chooses not to use it.  There would be no point in having a Disneyfied tourist attraction with no Royal family.

Juliette Labatut wanted to abolish the Monarchy as it is an expensive irrelevance. However, she did recognise the role played by tradition and she recognised that the Queen deserves respect.  It would be sad to lose status and symbolism.

Mia Saltissi pointed out that the Queen is not just Head of State in the UK.  There would be many unforeseen consequences if the UK removed the Queen.  However, Mia still wanted the Royal family to give up some tax advantages and she called for private Royal income to be more clearly kept separately from government funds.

Felix Carpenter wanted to keep the Royal family.  They DO still have a diplomatic role.  However, Felix thought that Royal palaces should be opened up and the number of Royals paid from the public purse should be reduced.  The money saved should be spent on worthy projects that are much more relevant to the modern world than is the Royal Family.

Aoife Hermann argued that some privilege does exist, even here at Emanuel.  Some inherited wealth is fine.  “Working Royals” do a fine job.

Gethin Syson argued that there is no need to abolish the Monarchy.  There is nothing worth while to gain by Abolition.  The royal family bring in money from tourists.  They play an important part in promoting charities such as the DOE award and the Prince’s Trust.  They are socially aware and are an important part of British soft power / international status.

Effie King could see both sides of the argument.  The Monarchy has no real political role any more; that has been taken over by the Prime Minister (in the form of Prerogative powers).  A gilded monarchical cage is actually unfair to the Royals, yet there are many more rational ways to spend the same amount of money.

Yafet Filmon Argued that Britain needs to Monarchy for tourism, for History, and as a way to recognise the value of service.  The Monarchy is a core part of British culture.  Inherited wealth and status should not be challenged without good reason.

Emilie Labatut pointed out that Abolition would be very controversial and divisive.  It would weaken the unity of the United Kingdom and go against public opinion.  There is no obvious alternative to the Monarchy.

Vote: the motion was defeated (the Monarchy SHOULD NOT be abolished) by 9 votes to 3.

Week 9 (begins 8th March)

“This House thinks that doctors and nurses should get a pay rise well above the rate of inflation”.

Year 7

This was a glorious, warm and sunny day, soon after the return to school, so only 3 participants out of a potential 140.

Elsa Lane said that the COVID crisis has exposed how unfair society is.  Poverty wages are wrong.  The NHS needs to be made a higher priority.  This is a question of morality – some NHS workers have to be paid more.  A one off cash payment is not enough.  A pay rise well above inflation is crucial.

Macsen Morgan agreed on the morality argument, but questioned whether the country, and the government, could afford a significant pay rise.  The government is very short of money, and has run up huge debts.  A significant pay rise could only be paid for if taxes went up significantly, or if the NHS was made a higher priority, with other government spending being cut.  Macsen pointed out that nurses enjoy better pensions and job security in the state sector, so slightly lower pay is less important.  In the private sector jobs are less secure, and workers generate more revenue for the employer in the free market, so slightly higher pay is reasonable.  He wanted higher rates of progressive taxation on high levels of pay.  There should be state intervention to ensure a decent minimum wage and to prevent exploitation by employers, because the market fails to reflect the true social value of many key worker jobs.  Higher pay was needed to avoid a recruitment crisis and for morale reasons – has the government worked out the damaging cost of NOT increasing nurses pay after such a crisis?  This should be paid for by either raising tax rates or by boosting the economy.   This viewpoint was particularly well argued.

Callum Barton thought that work should be rewarded, but that the country could not afford a significant pay rise at present.  He wanted to key workers to be valued more.  Pay the people doing key, socially valuable, jobs more and pay for it by cutting government spending on other things.

Vote: the motion was defeated by 2 votes to 1.  No significant pay rise for nurses.

Year 6

This was a cold and wet day – so there were 14 participants (there are only 48 in the year!)

Max Mukherjee argued that of course nurses should get more than the 1% being suggested by the government.  They have been faced with horrendous working conditions and real danger as a result of the COVID crisis.  Nurses are undervalued and under paid.  A big annual pay increase and a one off bonus payment is only what they deserve.

Gethin Syson agreed that nurses had been hugely stressed by COVID, but he also thought that the country could not afford a big pay rise for them at a time when so many people have lost their jobs and the national debt has risen so much.  Gethin suggested that hospitals could look for additional sources of finance .  Private hospitals should be expected to pay their staff more.  He also suggested that there could be an extra voluntary tax / donation which would be guaranteed to go towards higher pay for nurses.

This is the idea of HYPOTHECATION of taxes – people are more willing to pay taxes if they think the money will be spent on things that they approve of (like nurses pay) rather than on things they don’t approve of (like nuclear weapons or aircraft carriers or even HS2).  We also briefly touched on the concept of the Laffer curve – that if tax rates are put up too high then the government might get LESS tax revenue than if tax rates are kept lower.

Kitty Wright did not want taxes to go up.  Nurses have secure jobs and good pensions, which is very different from the position of many in the private sector.  However, she did want key workers with high skills to be paid more, pay should NOT be purely decided by market supply and demand.

Aoife Hermann called for NHS pay to go up by more than the rate of inflation – a real terms pay rise, or at least by the rate of inflation.

Emilie Labatut called for the government to intervene to keep prices down.  Key workers should have a higher standard of living than is currently the case.

We briefly talked about Government intervention (a prices and income policy, which might lead to shortages / rationing of under-priced goods) versus a free market based on supply and demand.

Juliette Labatut pointed out that there is a huge NHS waiting list, which is rapidly getting larger due to the COVID crisis.  She thought that higher taxes are bad for everyone, but we do need more nurses.  Therefore she suggested a one off cash bonus (instead of a permanent increase in pay).  Nurses should work longer and harder if they wanted more pay.

Anatole Crosbie called on the government ot prioritise the spending on the NHS, not on aircraft carriers.  Done properly, this kind of prioritising could mean nurses get paid more WITHOUT taxes having to go up.  Tax payers should be allowed to decide how their taxes are spent.

Effie King acknowledged that nurses have had longer hours imposed in very stressful conditions.  Nurses deserve a pay rise AND a one off bonus.

Nahom Yoseph said that a 1% pay rise was a “derisory amount”.  Nurses are socially vital, highly skilled, and should be properly paid.  Taxes should be put up for the rich, progressive taxes with a high rate for the highest pay would be fair and reduce inequality, as is the case in Sweden.  The government CAN afford to pay nurses more.

Yafet Filmon disagreed – it is not fair to have too high a rate of tax for the highly paid.  They have earned their pay and should be free to keep it and spend it.

Flora Cole said that nurses are undervalued, as are all caring jobs, because they tend to be predominantly done by women.  Women in general are underpaid, as was shown during International Women’s Day.  It is NOT fair to make nurses work longer and even harder for low pay.  There is a danger of lots of nurses choosing to retire.  We HAVE to offer a decent pay rise, both to show our appreciation and for the sake of morale amongst nurses.

Vote: the motion was defeated by 4 votes to 7 (no large pay rise for nurses). 

Week 8 (begins 1st March)

“This House thinks that a “no jab, no job” employment policy would be an infringement of the human rights of individuals and is unacceptable.”

Year 7

Macsen Morgan argued that everyone shold get themselves vaccinated, especially care home workers and NHS workers.  He thought it worrying that 40% of care home workers were refusing the vaccination and thought that a care home worker should not be allowed to do the job if they refused the vaccination, because they are a danger to the care home residents and to other staff.  If you pose a threat to society you must take the vaccination.  If people refuse it, the risk to others is greatly increased, and so is the risk of the virus mutating further into even more dangerous variants.  No jab no job is an entirely reasonable approach for an employer to take.   Lives are more important than rights!  Macsen told us how he had passed an anti lockdown demonstration led by Piers Corbyn which was demanding BOTH no vaccination AND no lockdown, which Macsen thought was a very irresponsible approach.

Ferdie Barnett disagreed, saying that no jab no job was going too far.  Individuals have the right to choose.  Perhaps the best solution would be to have stringent testing of anyone who has not been vaccinated?

Gracie Miller emphasised the importance of human rights.  However, since the vaccination is free and safe it does seem silly not to take it.  It should be seen as vital for all those in jobs that involve close contact to have the vaccine – it is their social duty and the vaccine really should be accepted when offered.It ought to be compulsory to be vaccinated when there is a risk to others, in high risk roles.

Oliver Fowkes strongly encouraged vaccine take up but thought that it could not be forced upon people to take it.  However, all the higher risk, close contact jobs SHOULD require staff to be vaccinated.  No jab for a close contact role, the No Job.  This policy should be available as an option for employers such as theatres and cinemas or shared space offices as well as in care settings.

Jun Howard raised the question of what to do about those who cannot take the jab, for immune / allergy reasons.  He also pointed out that many people have not had the chance to take the job, and they should not be discriminated against.  Vaccination should be strongly encouraged, but it was not a necessity in lower risk roles.

Dominic Catterick said that only testing was necessary for low risk / low contact jobs but that vaccination SHOULD be compulsory for all high risk / close contact roles.

Callum Barton argued for testing – no one shold be forced out of a job because they have not been vaccinated (although he thought that there was no reason for someone to choose not to be vaccinated unless they were pregnant or allergic to the vaccine

Oscar von Semsbach agreed with No jab, No job – whilst individuals were free to say no to vaccination they must expect some constraints on their actions as a consequence of refusing to be vaccinated.  rgued that

Vote: the motion was passed (no jab no job was rejected as an infringement on the rights of the individual) by 5 votes to 4.

The close vote reflects the controversial nature of the topic.

Year 6

Diana Packer argued that a “no jab, no job” rule is fine as nearly all jobs involve some contact with others.  For example the head of Pimlico Plumbers has said that he will only employ those who are vaccinated – after all, they will be expected to go into other peoples’ homes.

Yafet Filmon agreed that for any job involving interaction (eg home delivery) then staff SHOULD be vaccinated.  However, it would not be fair to refuse to employ those who are unable to be vaccinated.  He thought it selfish not to have the vaccine, and that the rights of individuals were LESS important than the rights of society.  It is necessary to be vaccinated for the safety of others, and to reduce the risk of further mutations.  There are many rules already that restrict individual freedom.  Every job involves some human contact – or at least some use of public transport.  The unvaccinated therefore always pose a risk to others.

Nahom Yoseph agreed with this, although he recognised the issue of showing discrimination by sacking existing unvaccinated staff when taking a vaccination is not in their existing contract.

Kitty Wright disagreed, saying that a requirement to take a vaccine should be dependent on the nature of the job, although it was always the sensible thing to do.  She recognised the risk that “vaccine passports” to get insurance or to use public transport would effectively force people to be vaccinated.

Emilio Manson-Smith recognised the importance of vaccination, but also the dilemmas being faced.  Should it be a requirement to be vaccinated to go to school?  Or just to be tested?  Some people don’t want to be tested – should that be their right or does it pose a threat to others, especially when there are so many cases without symptoms?

Vote: the motion was defeated (no jab no job was accepted as a reasonable policy) by 4 votes to 1. 

Week 7 (begins 22 Feb)

“This House thinks that the UK should pause its vaccination programme once the vulnerable groups have received their doses.  The vaccine should go to poorer countries according to need, to allow them to catch up and to save global lives”.

Year 7

This was another well attended debate on a very controversial topic.

Gracie Miller thought that it would be a good idea to share vaccine with the most vulnerable groups world wide.  It was only fair to vaccinate everyone who needs it.  The slower we are in vaccinating the world, the greater the risk of dangerous virus mutations.  However, she did want to see vulnerable groups in the UK vaccinated first…..of course the key question is who do you define as “vulnerable”?

Jun Howard agreed – why should people in England be ranked as more important than people from other countries?  Only genuinely vulnerable people actually NEED the vaccine.  Britain has  diplomatic, moral / ethical and economic reasons to share the vaccine.  We will have to learn to live with COVID and we will also have to live with the rest of the world…..

Sandy Wygas agreed that the quickest solution to get to world wide normality is generosity in the face of a global threat.  He wanted a date to be set, after which UK vaccine supplies would go to the rest of the world.

In contrast, Oliver Fowkes wanted more focus within the UK – clearly the most vulnerable in the UK MUST be vaccinated first – “put your oxygen mask on first before you try to help others”.

Gabriel Haque-bousquet agreed that the vulnerable in the UK should come first, and he emphasised the importance of the economic cost as well as the lives lost.

Macsen Morgan made the point that many wealthy countries have been very slow to vaccinate, which is largely their own fault.  We should keep all vaccine for UK citizens until we have ALL been vaccinated, or at least until all over 18 have been vaccinated.  There has been a huge economic loss and we MUST focus on a UK economic recovery, which means near universal vaccination.

Maya Abdennadher agreed that we should concentrate on vaccinating the UK first, as did Louis Macsherry.

Nico Fernandez-Fuertes thought that the UK should vaccinate all those in the UK over 16 before providing vaccine to priority cases in the rest of the world.

Alice Fang-Favard thought that the UK should keep vaccinating until all adults have been treated.

Ferdie Barnett saw it as a humanitarian duty of the UK to hand out the vaccine evenly according to need.  All lives matter equally.

Oscar von Sembach argued that both points of view have merit.  However, he made the point that the price of vaccine should NOT be a factor.

(In fact Astra Zeneca are producing the vaccine at cost price and the intention is to provide vaccine at very low cost to developing countries, the current problem is one of inadequate supply NOT cost).

Vote: the motion was defeated by 10 votes to 5.

Year 6

Sophie Mclachlan argued that the vaccine should be shared equally.  We had an informative discussion about the safety of the vaccine and the reasons why “vaccine reluctance” exists.

Edward Callan wanted to vaccinate the over 60s and everyone else medically vulnerable to COVID and otherwise share the vaccine with the rest of the world.

Diana Packer pointed out that the responsibility of the British government lies first to British citizens.  A British economic recovery is essential, and for that large groups of the UK population have to be vaccinated.  UK needs must come first, ahead of international needs.

Kitty Wright agreed that the UK should only share AFTER all vulnerable groups on the UK have been vaccinated although she also argued that ONLY vulnerable groups actually NEED to be vaccinated.  – but there was then a discussion about how to define “vulnerable”.

Yafet Filmon argued that the WHOLE of the UK population should be vaccinated BEFORE any vaccine is spared for those outside the UK.

Nahom Yoseph pointed out the dreadful record of the UK on COVID prior to the vaccine rollout – with far higher death rates than other countries.  We should be ready to share after a particular date – he suggested mid May – “we should focus on ourselves first BEFORE helping others”.

Vote: the motion was defeated by 4 votes to 2.

Week 5 (begins Mon 1 Feb)

“This House thinks that footballers and pop stars should NOT be paid more than scientists, doctors, nurses and teachers”.

Year 7

Macsen Miller agreed that the pay gap between footballers and key worker roles, such as teachers, was “grotesque”.  He recognised that footballers arguably bring in more visible revenue than do teachers.  Footballers only have short careers, are at constant risk of career ending injury, and pay high taxes on their earnings.  There are many fewer professional footballers than there are doctors or nurses or teachers.  Short supply and high demand ->  high price (high wages).

Gracie Miller agreed that doctors and nurses and teachers are more important to society than are footballers or pop stars, but she thought that the market should decide on pay on the basis of supply and demand.  Ranking pay for jobs on the basis of the job’s importance to society would NOT work!

Jun Howard felt that doctors and nurses should be paid more than before the pandemic because of their obvious importance to other peoples’ lives BUT that it should not be a question of paying everyone the same as this might lead to lower quality.

Ferdie Barnett argued in favour of a meritocratic system of paying the best footballing talent a lot of money.

Sandy Wygas pointed out that footballers and pop stars can have very short careers.  They might get injured or fall out of fashion.

Olver Fowkes did NOT want government deciding who should be paid more, but he did recognise the change in circumstances caused by key workers risking their lives during COVID.

Leo Stimson agreed that doctors and (especially) nurses should be paid more.  There has been a clear change in social attitudes as we recognise more clearly who actually is most valuable (contributes the most to society).  Elsa Lane agreed with this – higher pay would encourage more nurses to join, at present there is a big shortage.  Alice Fang-Favard agreed as well – mere entertainment should not be so highly valued.  Saving lives is more important.

The motion was passed by 12 votes to 1. 

Year 6

Kitty Wright argued that a meritocracy is a good thing.  The market should decide.  After all, footballers have a short career and risk a career ending injury at any point.  People choose to become doctors or nurses (or teachers) knowing the limited rewards (and having the advantage of an occupational pension).  Doctors and nurses are a big part of our community, but their pay should reflect supply and demand.

Diana Packer agreed that a short career needs to be rewarded highly.  She queried how the money is spent on irresponsible extravagance – should how the money will be spent affect how much people should be paid?

Emilio Manson-Smith argued that footballers are overpaid and that our society puts far too much emphasis on sport.  Doctors contribute more to society than do footballers.

Yafet Filmon thought that footballers are paid what they are worth, the market should decide.  Both footballers and doctors spend many years developing their skills.  Yafet was keen for the very highly paid to be very heavily taxed (progressive taxation) and he even suggested that the tax system could be tweaked so that favoured occupations (ones beneficial to society) would pay a lower rate of tax than less beneficial occupations.  He also pointed out that there were huge differences between what elite male sportsmen get paid and the much smaller amounts paid to elite females in some (not all) sports.  Should there be a legal requirement for equal pay between the sexes?

Nahom Yoseph Argued that very highly paid footballers and pop stars should be very heavily taxed so that the government can afford to pay doctors and nurses more.  COVID has shown that we as a society should definitely pay key workers (especially nurses) more and COVID has changed the way people think about society.  Doctors and nurses are risking their lives, but they did know what they were getting into and they chose to follow their passion / vocation.

The motion was PASSED by 5 votes to 1.  

There is a famous quote that “If you think education is expensive, just compare it to the cost of ignorance.”

Personally, I had great hopes that the debate would end with suggesting that I should be paid the same as Gareth Bale.  Unfortunately, I suspect that the vote would actually mean Gareth Bale being paid the same as myself (and consequently choosing to remain in Spain rather than returning to Spurs).  In the wake of COVID there does seem to be a need to reconsider the value of different roles to society, and in truth pay IS a defining measure of how society values you.  It remains to be seen whether social attitudes HAVE really changed…

Week 4 (begins Mon 25 Jan)

“This House thinks that the way China is governed is better than the way that the United Kingdom is run”.

Year 7

Archie Hedger argued that individuals are usually poorer in China and are crushed by state security.China lies about Covid deaths, although it does successfully get things done.  Anand Munkhbayar defended China’s environmental record, given their huge population.  He recognised that censorship is very common in China, for example the “Great Firewall of China” and that government tended to put the interests of the Chinese Communist Party ahead of those of individuals.

Gracie Miller argued that China was a global leader in manufacturing, with lower costs, lower wages greater productivity and greater efficiency than in the UK.

Pearl Currie pointed out that Communism is unrealistically idealistic.  Chinese economic growth is at the cost of individual rights.  There has never been a withering away of the state, as promised by communist ideology.  Jun Howard agreed that Chinese standards of living remained well below that in the West, that there was only one political party and very little individual freedom.

Elsa Lane said that economic growth was not enough in itself.  China has a dreadful human rights record and factories such as FoxConn  are terribly exploitative  It is a bad neighbour with dreadful pollution (producing 26% of the world’s CO2 emissions)  and without workers’ rights.

Macsen Morgan pointed out the huge inequality in China between inland and coastal regions.  There is NO adequate welfare state.

Oliver Fowkes agreed that china had successfully crushed Covid 19 BUT thought that this did not counter balance the repression of the Uighur Muslims or of protesters in Hong Kong.   Alice Fang-Favard agreed with this.

Ferdie Barnett pointed out the extent of party / state control of the media and use of propaganda in China.  Louis MacSherry said that whilst China is more equal (in theory) the truth was that people had fewer rights and that political opposition was banned.

Finally, Sandy Wygas criticised the fact that President Xi Jinping of China had been chosen by the elite of the Chinese communist Party, not by the Chinese people.

The motion was DEFEATED by 17 votes to 0. 

It is interesting that so much more emphasis was placed on individual rights rather than on economic performance or even performance in dealing with Covid 19.  Perhaps students might be less worried about individual rights if they were hungry and homeless!

Year 6

Emilio Manson-Smith strongly disagreed with the motion.  China was more efficient, but there was no genuinely independent legal system, no individual rights, great inequality.  This was too great a price for achieveing good economic growth.  Emilio compared communist China to Nazi Germany and said that President Xi Jinping is an authoritarian dictator.

Felix Carpenter agreed that the persecution of Uighurs is wrong and that it is important that individuals should have rights to be free to be themselves, and to protest.

Edward Callan recognised that China had been successful in supressing Covid 19 and in achieving economic growth and he wanted GB to copy China’s example.

Diana Packer argued that the Chinese government controls what people think through censorship and propaganda.  It is a bad thing for everyone to think the same.  Although China has handled Covid 19 well it is wrong that the Uighur should have no rights.  She liked the Chinese record of economic growth, but disliked the Chinese lack of rights.

Yafet Filmon accepted that the British government had not been effective with Covid 19.  It had been slow to act, and had failed to enforce its own policies.  However, Yafet felt that China was too strict and that it was wrong for China to control all information, and for only the government view to count.

In contrast, Nahom Yoseph gave a robust defence of the Chinese system.  GB had been too slow and too weak in responding to Covid 19.  China was right to have acted quickly and severely.  China IS better run – more successful in dealing with both Covid 19 and in achieving economic growth.  There have been many fewer deaths in China from Covid 19 (officially fewer than 5,000) compared to over 100,000 in the UK.  That is 400 times fewer per head of population than in GB.  The figures might be unreliable, but are not totally fictitious.  Control, discipline and willingness to act for the collective good are all much better in China than in the UK.

The motion was DEFEATED by 7 votes to 1.

Week 3 (begins Mon 18 Jan)

“This House believes that Britain should unilaterally abolish its nuclear weapons”.

Year 7

Ferdie Barnett argued that Britain should keep its nuclear weapons as a deterrent to others.  Abolition makes us vulnerable in a dangerous world.  Gracie Miller agreed that Britain should keep them – after all, other countries have them.  To give them up would reduce Britain’s status in the world.  Leo Stimpson said that possessing nuclear weapons makes a country powerful (although the pitiful state of North Korea and the collapse of the USSR both suggest otherwise).  Oscar von Semsbach argued in favour of the deterrent concept in a world where irresponsible and unstable countries, such as North Korea, already have nuclear weapons.  Macsen Morgan explained the principle of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) as a way of making all out war between nuclear powers impossible.  Sandy Wygas argued that nuclear weapons exist and cannot be uninvented.  Not to have them is very dangerous – for example Iraq was invaded largely because it did NOT have nuclear weapons.  North Korea has not been invaded largely because it DOES possess nuclear weapons.  Sandy argued that nuclear weapons can help protect remote territories (although Britain did not consider using nuclear weapons against non- nuclear Argentina during the Falklands war (in 1982).

In contrast, Jun Howard said that Britain SHOULD remove its nuclear eapons, even unilaterally, because owning nuclear weapons is both expensive and makes Britain a target.  Britain has too big an opinion of itself.  We are too aggressive, too keen to invade others.  An all out nuclear war would destroy the planet.  He also argued that Britain does not need its own nuclear deterrent, we are already protected by NATO, which includes the USA and its enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons.  In fact, the UK nuclear weapons are NOT entirely independent as they come from the USA and Britain would need US approval to fire them.

Michael Gande agreed that British nuclear weapons should be abolished, they are just a costly threat that we have no intention of actually using.  Macsen Morgan pointed out that the French have nuclear weapons largely because Britain does, it is an unnecessary status symbol.

Vote – the motion was DEFEATED by 6 votes to 2.

Year 6

Kitty Wright argued in favour of abolition.  Britain would never actually use nuclear weapons, which are very expensive.  Think what Britain could do with the money saved by abolition.

In contrast, Sophie McLachlan said that other countries could not be trusted and that to disarm unilaterally would be seen as a sign of weakness.

Emilio Manson-Smith emphasised the importance of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) as a way of ensuring peace.  In a hostile world you need defence.

Diana Packer acknowledged the horrible examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and also that nuclear weapons are an expensive waste in the sense that there is no intention of using them.  Despite this, Britain should keep its nuclear weapons as they confer status, prestige, and a distinctive “feel good” factor.  A country that possesses nuclear weapons is treated with more respect.

Vote – the motion was DEFEATED by 5 votes to 0.

Both debates were a bit of a surprise.  Young people growing up in an unstable world seem to be much more comfortable with Britain possessing nuclear weapons than was the case during the Cold War when CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) was popular amongst the idealistic young.  Of course that was 30 years ago (!)

Week 2 (begins Mon 11 Jan 2021)

“This House thinks that private companies should not censor what is posted on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.”

In view of the events in Washington this was a VERY hot topic.

Year 7

Dennis Vehbi made the point that some form of censorship IS necessary to ensure that posts which are dangerous to the country are taken down.  However, there was no consensus on who should do the censoring (private companies, national governments, or independent commissions).  Jun Howard agreed – 5 people were killed in the Washington riots and clearly comments inciting violence should be censored, or at least those who make them should be held responsible for the consequences of their actions.  Elsa Lane concurred that incitement to riot should be banned.   However, again there was no consensus on how far the provider of the platform (eg Twitter or Facebook) should be held legally liable for the content of the material posted on their platforms, in the same way that newspapers are legally liable for the contents published in their newspapers.

Dominic Catterick suggested a censorship of varying severity, based on how extreme the message being posted was.  Gabriel Haque-Bousquet pointed out that some countries do already block / censor social media (although whether we ought to be following the example of China in this is very debateable).

In support of the motion, Michael Gande pointed out that censorship is a very slippery slope.  You start by censoring a few extremists and then find that censorship is expanding to block many perfectly reasonable, mainstream views.  Gracie Miller made the point that a ban simply provokes the hostility of those who feel that they are being unfairly treated – surely the answer is to challenge extremism with reasoned argument, not to simply ban it?

Anand Munkhbayar suggested that censorship should only be applied in extreme circumstances, “when everyone agrees that it is necessary” – but of course such agreement would be very rare.  Oliver Fowkes argued that although hate speech is wrong it is unrealistic to expect to be able to ban it in a globalised, digital world.  The concept of freedom of speech is important.  Legal action should be taken again those who post hate speech, as determined by the courts.  Of course, this would be slow and often ineffective.

We live in a world where commonly held consensus views seem to be losing ground to extremism and where technology has developed more swiftly than the ability of the law to control it.

The motion was defeated by 15 votes to nil.  Some form of censorship is needed, but there was no clear consensus on how it should work.     

Year 6

Aoife Herrman argued that Trump should be removed from Twitter because he posed a clear and present danger to the US Congress.  Kitty Wright agreed that Trump is a sore loser who should be suspended from Twitter and Facebook, but she also argued that freedom of speech IS important.  She suggested that Twitter should hire lots of fact checkers, and should make much greater use of the “facts disputed” warning that it has been using on President trump Tweets.  Of course there is the danger of this simply leading to differing opinions being prevented from being expressed – an extension of the existing “cancel culture” when instead of debating with a different point of view many people simply want to shut down anything with which they disagree.

Diana Packer made the point that social media is too slow to act – that the damage has already been done by the time a tweet is pulled off.  What about a 2 hour time lag to allow fact checking of important tweets between the tweet being posted and the tweet going public?  Diana also pointed out that social media tends to lead to extremism because it only seems to reinforce one sided points of view, generating an echo chamber that reinforces prejudice.

Kitty Wright made the excellent point that Angela Merkel had called the banning of Trump from social media “A problematic breach of the fundamental right to free speech”.  Kitty called for the state to adopt laws which made online incitement to crime an offence.

Yafet Filmon argued that censorship is necessary, but that it should not be a one off decision by a private company. He recognised the vital importance of accepting defeat and the legitimacy of elections.  It is really difficult to find the balanced truth, there is no consensus, no common ground of agreed facts.  Trump simply denounces everything he does not like as “fake news” without bothering to use evidence to support his argument.

The motion was defeated by 5 votes to nil.  The vote does not really reflect the debate – there was a lot of concern about censorship being arbitrarily carried out by private companies without reference to the law of the land.