Principal's Address: Debating Assembly 2011

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Principal's Address
Sydney Boys High School
Debating Assembly
Held on 22 July 2011

Special guest, Mr Paul Hunyor, coaches, parents, staff, debaters and students, welcome to our annual debating and public speaking assembly. We gather before the commencement of the GPS competition each year to honour those boys who have been selected to represent High in one of the toughest round robin school-level competitions around. Debating has had a change of management this year as Dana Quick resigned as MIC to have a baby – Charlie. I want to acknowledge her efforts on behalf of the program over several years. Rachel Powell, HT of History, has taken over the role of MIC in a seamless transition. Thank you to her for her energy and efficiency in managing the program. Thank you to Brian Webb for his mentoring of the PDC teams and to Duncan Stedman for filling in for Celia Finnie while she is on secondment. Our program owes a great deal to our coaches. Kelvin Yu (2007) has guided first grade well again. Thank you to him and all of the coaches who have made such a difference to our teams.The Debating Sub-Committee is active and ready for the intensive GPS season. Thank you to all the parents involved.

After such an outstanding year in 2010, the debating program had a high standard to emulate this year. We have had a mixed season so far. Ashwin Rudder was a member of the successful NSW Public schools team which won the Commonwealth Day Schools Challenge. Unfortunately, our Hume Barbour PDC team, after overcoming arch rivals SGHS in the Regional Final, was defeated in an inter-Regional final by our nemesis of recent years, Smiths-Hill High School. Let’s hope the curse of the split decision does not follow us into the GPS season as the boys contest for the prestigious Louat Shield.

The Year 11 and 10 teams are still in their competitions, so we wish them all the best of luck. In the Friday Evening Debating Competition, our Year 11 team of Siddarth, Suman, Chris and Zafar defeated Knox in the senior B division. The Year 10 team of Connor, Kushaal and Agnish took out their final, too. In the East Side Competition, High was victorious in both the Year 11 and Year 12 Divisions.

Public Speaking could be a bigger activity at High. Rowena Barr is managing the program well, but not enough boys seem to be brave enough to put themselves to the test. I realise that speaking in public is one of the top three stressors for people in their lives, so those who can learn to do it have social and vocational advantages. Congratulations to Kushaal Vyas who was runner-up in the state final of the Rostrum Voice of Youth Competition. Nakul Bhagwat was runner-up in the Regional Final. Lokesh Sharma (Year 9) was runner-up in his local final. I urge more boys to get involved in this very worthwhile and character-building activity.

I need to take time out to mention GPS Rifle Shooting, which was held this week in very testing weather conditions with wind, rain, cold and a setting sun, trying to confound the shooters’ attempts to hit their targets. Our team of relatively inexperienced shooters performed very well in the two-disciplines of the Buchanan Shield-targets and snap at 300 metres. In the two days of competition our boys finished third again this year, behind TAS and Shore. Ryan Woo, Yujin Wu and Wilbert Wu were selected in the combined GPS team as a result of their fine performances. Thank you to Cathy Meaney, Daniel Comben, Sam Kremer, Kevin Chan and Ishan Nadkarni and the Rifle Committee for their great support of the team.

Debating within a framework of rules is a fundamental interpersonal activity in a flourishing democracy. There are many forms of debate in our society, ranging from the messy name calling in parliament to shock jocks on radio, to prolonged exchanges in Letters to the Editor in newspapers. Debating involves bringing relatively informed information to bear on a contestable proposition. It often requires model construction and defence.

Debating in our school competition format requires mental agility, ingenuity, a deep knowledge of topical issues, speed in addressing and solving real-world problems, and a commitment to teamwork. These skills are developed over many years of training and competing. I am pleased that so many boys seek to have the experience of debating training and competition. The skills and values learned through debating are lifelong accompaniments to argument. They are twenty-first century oral skills just as they were in the first century. Many debaters also form close bonds as a result of many and varied shared experiences at school. The companionship and camaraderie exhibited amongst debaters are impressive indicators of the benefits of the activity.

The boys selected in GPS teams have engaged in a lengthy selection process. The debating season is a long one: February to October. However, our tradition peak is the GPS competition. I know debaters appreciate your support on Friday nights. Try to attend a home debate to inspire them in their endeavour. I congratulate all the boys who were selected in GPS teams and wish you best of luck in the GPS season.