I had an interesting discussion tonight with my parents about security in the country and how it could be improved. The debate isn’t the key issue for me it was more the activity of discussion and debating. It made me wonder whether the art of debating is still in existence or are we losing it in the modern world of fast-moving new technological developments?
When I was at college (a few years ago) there were exams people could do in public speaking. The English Speaking Board exams were a test of the ability to present and undertake a public discussion. I really enjoyed doing them and the skills I developed have been useful throughout my working life. I think the ESB still exists and I wonder how many schools and colleges make use of them and the exams.
Being able to develop an argument and hold a discussion is an essential part of working life. It is how we can explain a situation and then outline a course of action which can be subject to challenge. In the process of facing a challenge it makes us ensure we are clear why we believe the action is required. All of this is essential for organisations that want to continue to develop and improve. Without a challenge and the open debate or discussion they cannot move forward.
If you look at the places where debate openly takes place they are few – Parliament, Question Time on Thursday night TV and then I am starting to run out of examples. There is no point looking to social media as there is very little in the way of meaningful debate it is more about quickly putting a point across, and then others do the same. This can’t be a good position for a democracy.
I worry that in another 20 years we will have lost the art of a debate and it will have been replaced with merely stating points as we do through social media. I hope that there are examples of schools that are making sure young people learn how to clearly develop an argument and are able to articulate a position and deal with challenges. I would love to hear about ways this is being introduced or developed in the education system, and not just in private schools but across all schools.