Views & Reviews
Can Our Schools Have Compulsory Debating Clubs?
During my college days, my English lecturer – a most respected professor who recently retired as a principal – once said, ‘reading makes a full man, writing makes an exact man, and speaking makes…??,” (he trailed off the sentence for a moment; my classmates and I didn’t know what it was). He said, ‘…a ready man.” Yes, he was quoting Sir Francis Bacon though the professor paraphrased it a bit.
Now, those words seem quite relevant especially as our society is going through an ‘interesting time’. By the phrase, ‘interesting time’ I don’t mean in a positive way, because years back, I did read somewhere (in the book of quotes compiled by my sister) of a quote “May you live in interesting times – ancient Chinese curse”. I do not want to delve much into the quote but I do agree that we are living in times of interesting events, whether it is a curse or not, is up for ‘debate’.
Today, with the coming of the internet age and the advent of social media, almost everything is in public domain. All issues and events, whether authenticated or unauthenticated ones, are on social media and it is a free for all to comment and discuss. This is good to some extent because we are living in a democratic society.
However, there should be a fine line between what we express and the effect of what our discussions will have on the well-being of society. There is no parameter to judge that, but it is up to the individual to discern it.
My main contention is this: Will it be good for the schools and colleges to compulsorily have debating clubs and if need be, there can be debating – inter school or inter-college – debating competitions on a yearly basis.
I had the opportunity to watch a black and white movie titled, ’12 angry men’ which is by all means a boring movie but if one understands the plot of the movie then it becomes more interesting and sets our mind to think deeply. The movie, which is set in a courthouse, is about the power of being cool, analytical and presenting one’s point to others in a most reasonable manner (you need to watch the movie to appreciate it). Then there is this Dinzel Washington movie, ‘The Great debaters’ which beautifully portrays the power of presenting one’s thoughts to thousands of people and changing who wins the debate at the end.
I do not intend to say that I am a debater or a great public speaker. I simply want to state that debating, like sports, essay, quiz and other competitions should also be given due importance. However, when it comes to debating, there should also be certain criteria apart for the traditional aspect of posture, pronunciation, dress and the like. The one and most important criteria should be how a debater, be it for the motion or against, presents his/her thoughts or understandings in a clear manner and convince the opponent (not necessarily the judges or the audience) about the whole issue.
The power of convincing is something which is quite lacking in our society because our society have drawn line based on community, district and the like. But, if we have to look forward with a sense of hope, then perhaps, we can invest in our young children – the bright intelligent and talented children – and teach them that the art of speaking (which many of my generation couldn’t be trained in) is as important as getting good marks in different subjects, or sports or in quiz competitions and the like.
Towards this end, if I do make some sense through this article, then perhaps, the young enlightened teachers can do something for the children so that they might go beyond and become better than what we are.
A wise man once said, ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are,’ and I would add something there, ‘show me your teacher, and I will tell you what you will become.’
It is my sincere hope that our children, those in schools and colleges, will become great debaters, who will argue the issues not only in the state and national level but also on an international level and receive a standing ovation. Kuknalim.