(From The Oundelian, published June 2020)
It was five in the afternoon on a bleak January day. The house was roaring with applause.
We had won.
We debated anything from Socrates to whether it was right to abolish our own School. After months of gruelling preparation with Mrs Gould, we had got to this glorious stage. With Stamford fielding a duo of young intrepid debaters, the contest was going to be a fight. The audience acted more like animals in a zoo than those witnessing a clash of intellects. However, through the great perseverance of my partner and myself, we came through.
"Debating is about going out of one’s comfort zone. It is about being challenged to think. As Socrates once said, “It is better to change an opinion than persist with the wrong one”Charles Aldous, Grafton
To a good number of Oundelians, debating is of minimal importance. It is perhaps something your Hsm drags you to watch on a Wednesday evening, during Prep. It is something in which the less academically-minded of the School tend to fall asleep with boredom during the first five minutes. It is something which most people think that they will never need to do during their life. They are, however, wrong.
When most pupils leave Oundle School, they are set up for the world. A couple of jovial years at university, followed by a stint in an investment bank, perhaps. However, one thing I feel that our community does not teach or embrace enough is the art of critical thinking. This is fundamentally what debating is about.
Two years ago, when I ventured into the CLR on a Wednesday evening, a sheer chill gripped the core of my body. In a room packed to the rafters with adventurous older pupils, eager to debate, I felt rather beyond my years. The fear of standing up in front of this horde petrified me. Despite my anxieties, I plodded on. I debated.
Debating is about going out of one’s comfort zone. It is about being challenged to think. As Socrates once said, “It is better to change an opinion than persist with the wrong one”. Debate triggers logical thought and reason. When dictatorships in Russia and China persist, the only way to change them is through thought. We, the people of the free world, must engage in thoughtful discussion with these undemocratic governments, thus debating their barbaric policies. Through thought we can change them. This is self-evident with our parliament and the U.N. So if you want change, you must stick your head up above the ramparts.
“If you want change, you must stick your head up above the ramparts”Charles Aldous, Grafton
Back to Oundle. Here, pupils must engage with teachers. We must, like in the real world, challenge teachers for their opinions. For example, the staff of Oundle have decided to implement harsher phone rules. But if the pupils in unison stood up and challenged the teachers, the results could be different.
So now when you are dragged to the CLR or the AMR on a Wednesday evening, you can feel a sense of pride. A sense of pride that you are taking part in a wider international project. A project where we stand up for freedom. A project where we challenge people on their views.