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Debating Matters: East regional final - 2012

Six schools took part in the East regional final of the MRC-sponsored Debating Matters competition in April. The competition, organised by think-tank The Institute of Ideas, is open to 16 to 19 year olds and offers an accessible and engaging format for debating contemporary issues. Teenage students pitted their wits against each other and the judges on motions including “We should introduce a system of presumed consent for organ donation”.

One of the judges, Professor Sheila Bird from the MRC Biostatistics Unit, said:

“One never quite outgrows a soupcon of nervous anxiety when addressing a new type of audience! But, for young people who take part so enthusiastically in Debating Matters, their confidence to confront any audience builds on a solid foundation of having marshalled arguments ahead of time, not all of which are deployed initially, as some are held in reserve for quick-witted engagement  in the subsequent cut and thrust of debate.

Debating Matters is a marvellous preparation for any walk of life but especially so for the sciences, including statistical science, the law and humanities. Judging Debating Matters puts me on my mettle as I try to make points as pithily and tellingly as do those whom I have the honour and pleasure to judge!”

The event took place at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute. Queens’ School, Bushey emerged victorious and will go on to compete in the national final in July.

Quotes from participants:

Fiorella Volonnino, Queens’ School

“The whole process of research, reading, discussing these topics with others forces you to question your own values. You develop yourself, question yourself and that’s a really great process to have to go through.”

James Shaw, Palmers College

“Being challenged by judges is a completely novel experience. We are being challenged and taken seriously by people in the real world doing real things. The whole process encourages you to both challenge and engage with authority.”

Phil Shaw, Langley School

“I was in the audience for the presumed consent debate today and had my mind completely changed. Originally I was completely for presumed consent, but listening to the arguments and use of research today changed my opinion entirely.”

Patrick Benjamin, City of London School

“We had really interesting topics up for discussion, which caused a real stir in the room – including, surprisingly I thought, presumed consent and organ donation!”

“Debating Matters demands a very different skill to other competitions, this isn’t just about debating, its’ about understanding issues as a whole.”