Principal's Address: Debating Assembly 2010

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Principal's Address
Sydney Boys High School
Debating Assembly
Held on 23 July 2010

Special Guest, Tanvir Uddin (06), parents, coaches, staff, debaters and students, welcome to our annual debating assembly. Debating and public speaking are important co-curricular activities at our school. We have an envied reputation in debating, with outstanding success in the Year 11 and 12 competitions over 75 years. Debaters are made not born. Their raw abilities need to be trained rigorously to hone individual and team skills. Good debating teams must work well as a group, trust each other, respect each other, and above all, help each other. The quality of the debating program at High is due to the structure and people that support it.

Dana Quick has again led from the front with strong organisation, good human resource management and above all passion for the program. With 15 teams in GPS competition, the program is large and complex. Moreover the season is a long one, with organisation extending from February to September. I want to thank Dana for her efforts this year. Ms Berger has been involved with debating for ten years. She has threatened to resign each year since we last won the Hume Barbour. Each year the prospect of a Karl Cramp or Hume Barbour victory seems to draw her back in April. Now, our team is in the final of the Hume Barbour again, she says she definitely will quit this year. If she does, debating will have lost a stalwart – a most energetic and committed mentor. I want to acknowledge her dedication and expertise exhibited over many years. Thank you to our in-school managers Mr Webb and Ms Finnie who organise teams, fixtures and accompany teams to competition venues.

The success of the debating program over time has depended upon the willingness of Old Boys to get involved and put something back into the school that nurtured their talents. This year Old Boy Kelvin Yu (07) coached first grade and Michael Coutts (07) second grade. I want to thank them and all the other coaches for their work with our boys this year.

The Friday Evening Debating Competition for Year 11 2010 was won by Nakul Bhagwat, Samuel Khoo, Michael Tickner and Sujay Salagame – a praiseworthy result! Our Hume Barbour Finalists include Angud Chawla, Antony Paul and Max Phillis who were selected in the CHS Debating Team – a great representation from High!

While the focus of our assembly is on debating it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the achievements of High boys in rifle shooting at the GPS Shoot this week. While we are in a rebuilding phase as a team, following last year’s co-premiership, our inexperienced boys acquitted themselves well, as High finished strongly on Wednesday afternoon to snatch an equal third placing in the overall competition. [ Welcome to the stage] Most impressive was Ryan Woo’s performance as King of the Range – the best shooter in the GPS. Congratulations to Ryan, Brendan Leo, Peter Tran and Yujin Wu who were named in the combined GPS target rifle shooting team – a great effort!

Public Speaking this year has been managed very efficiently by Ms Barr. I thank her for her effort and also all the brave boys who stood up and competed in what surveys suggest is one of the most stressful activities that people have to face – speaking in public. Even more stressful then is to be compared to others in this feared endeavour. Kushall Vyas (Year 9) won third place in the NSW Rostrum Voice of Youth final. John Aclis (Year 12) represented High in the Lawrence Campbell Competition. Well done to those two competitors.

Debating is a very disciplined yet enjoyable co-curricular activity. A debate is a formal method of interactive and representational argument. It is different from logical and factual argument and from rhetoric because it relies on context. The winning side is the one which provides the audience and adjudicators with the better framework of the issue, the more persuasive practical application of the proposition. Debaters propose and defend models of how the debatable proposition can be understood and applied in real life contexts. They affirm a proposition by saying what it will mean if the proposition is implemented. As a form of argument debating is subtle and strategic and incorporates many features of other forms of argument – logic, facts, persuasion. Models can be attacked on the basis of feasibility, completeness, timeliness or undesirable effects flowing from their application in practice. The negative team’s main task is to destroy the arguments framed as a model for action, in order to convince the adjudicator that adopting the proposition is not warranted. Sometimes, negative sides propose alternative models designed to illustrate the imperfections of the affirmative model or to highlight the ill effects of its adoption. Many times teams are forced to argue counter intuitive propositions or to assert ethically or morally incompatible ideas in order to win the day. The contest requires intense focus and application, particularly during the prep hour before the debate commences. All of the intellectual, intrapersonal development and interpersonal skills developed through participation in a debating program are twenty-first century vocational skills.

Today we are presenting teams to represent us in GPS competition. I congratulate all those boys who have won selection in a competitive process. The Louat Shield is the prize we seek, awarded to GPS champions. Our first contest is against Shore tonight. Good luck to all our contestants!