A message from Debating Matters

With schools closed for the majority of students and lockdown underway, we want to offer some support for teachers thinking about what to engage pupils with. There is lots that can be done to generate a spirit of intellectual inquiry, discussion and debate.  

We’ve always referred to teachers as the ‘unsung heroes’ of the competition. Indeed, the resilience of many teachers and the hard work that organising classes remotely will entail means that teachers are ‘unsung heroes’ for society more broadly. We want to support teachers as much as possible. 

Whilst we can’t be together in person, we do have a number of things that people can do to keep debate alive whilst the schools are closed: 

  • Our topic guides are a great place to start to get to grips with some of the pressing questions of our time – questions that will not go away no matter how and when the pandemic is resolved. You can think about whether we should clamp down on ‘fake news’, whether western countries should pay reparations for colonialism, if AI should be welcomed or feared, and manymany more.

  • On top of this we will be publishing some guides over the next few days about how you can encourage students to do a Debating Matters debate remotely. We hope this will be useful resource and something you can plan for students to do without too much extra work on your part.

  • If you end up with some time to start planning for the future, you can also use the resources on the website to start to think about how to set a debate club up when you return

We’ll also stay active on social media, suggesting readings, topics, lectures and podcasts that will keep you busy, thinking, and critical. 

If you have any questions, suggestions, or want to share any ideas, please do get in touch with us. You should email Bernie Whelan, bernie@theboi.co.uk or call on 020 7269 9230. 

Over this period, the priority is following the government advice and staying safe. But hopefully alongside this we can all keep the spirit of debate alive, and sharpen our minds and arguments for when things go back to normal. 

Warmest wishes,

The Debating Matters team.

Special DM public debate at Oxford Union on 27 June

As part of our DM Oxfordshire Championship 2019, the final debate of the competition and an extra public debate are being presented as a special event at the Oxford Union. This two-part event is part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts. You can buy tickets here.

The Schools Debate 

“Populism is a threat to democracy”

Following a day of debating amongst Oxfordshire sixth-form students, the final debate of the competition gets this event underway. 

The presentation and award-giving will take place immediately after the debate.

The Main Debate
19:00 – 20:30

“From sexting to screen-addicts: should we be afraid of online harms?”

Few deny the benefits of social media and the internet age, yet there are also constant calls for greater regulation of online media and concerns about the negative effects especially for children. In February of this year, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers issued recommendations to parents encouraging them to ban the use of mobile phones at the dinner table. We live in a time of heightened sensitivity to possible online harms – from foreign interference in elections through online ‘troll farms’ to the alleged link between social media and suicide.

Parents and teachers seem especially eager for clarity about what boundaries to enforce online. To what extent should we be concerned about the harms that exist online, or should we be careful about fanning the flames of moral panics? How should we protect children from new technologies without robbing them of the possibilities such technologies afford? Should we be worried about the erosion of privacy online, as people share more and more and are increasingly tracked by large corporations and governments? Do we need to have a conversation about why we increasingly see everything in terms of the harms that exist, and struggle to imagine new generations and ourselves as robust enough to deal with the challenges we face?

The debate will be chaired by Claire Fox, founder and director of the Academy of Ideas, a writer and broadcaster and regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. The guest speakers are:

Jess Butcher MBE
technology entrepreneur, co-founder of Tick and Blippar; three times TedX speaker.

Alex Krasodomski-Jones
director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos

Dr Victoria Nash
deputy director, Oxford Internet Institute

Martyn Perks
digital business consultant and writer

DM comes to Durham on Friday 5 July

Sixth-form students from eight schools in the North East will battle it out for the title of Debating Matters North East Champions 2019 at a flagship day of debate on Friday 5th July. The event will be hosted at the Durham Sixth Form Centre.

Previous DM championships

Registration is now open for the competition, which sees 16- to 18-year-olds take part in a series of debates in what has been dubbed ‘the UK’s toughest debating competition’. Local schools will generally enter teams of between six and eight sixth-form students, and Debating Matters particularly welcomes applications from schools without a history of traditional debating.

Durham Sixth Form Centre is an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ school and the largest post-16 school in the North East of England. With a fantastic location in central Durham, it makes a great venue for the competition and Debating Matters is glad for the school’s support.

As ever with Debating Matters, it will be the substance of the arguments – rather than the style of presentation – that will decide the winners, and participants are encouraged to leave no stone unturned in a day of fierce, frantic and, most importantly, free debate. The students will face judging panels of adults from a wide range of professional backgrounds – including local business leaders, scientists, authors and academics – who will quiz them on their arguments and challenge them to defend their research and thinking.

Geoff Kidder, chief executive of the boi charity, said of the upcoming competition: “We are hugely excited to return again to the North East, which is a region we always tremendously enjoy going to. We know we can expect very rigorous debate and an atmosphere of competitive intellectual camaraderie. We offer particular thanks to Durham Sixth Form Centre for hosting the championship. We are excited to see what the schools have in store for each other on the day.”