Stop rebutting yourself! - primary debating – 5. Theodora Von Arnim

Duration: 12:16

Thoedora revisits and rebuts her former self in the 2008 NSW Premier’s Debating Challenge Years 5 and 6 State Final.

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Transcript – Stop rebutting yourself! - primary debating – 5. Theodora Von Arnim


TONY DAVEY: Hey. Hey, Theodora, how's things?

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Hello, Tony. How are you?

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, I'm excellent. It's been a while, for sure. So, do you want to tell people a little about you, and your debating life, and what you're up to.

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Yeah, sure. So, I've been roped into this, I think, because I was lucky enough to win the Year 6 State Debating Championships way back in I think it was 2008. And I, since then, have kept debating throughout primary school, high school, and my entirety of university, eventually actually reaching kind of the pinnacle achievement of being a top 10 speaker at the World Debating Championships in 2018. But, I'll always look back on my primary school debating days with you, Tony, as the real highlight.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, no question. It's certainly, it's all downhill from winning the Premier's Debating Challenge for Years 5 and 6. Don't worry about it, primary school kids. That's all you've got to handle.

And that's what we're going to watch today. We're going to watch your second negative speech from the final of those championships. And the topic is that we should teach current affairs instead of history in primary school.

By the way, guys, if you want to go to the comments part or the details part of this video, you can follow a link to watch the entire debate once you're finished watching Theodora give herself feedback and then, of course, rebut herself. OK, so are you ready to watch the speech?


TONY DAVEY: Excellent. All right, let's go.

[video playback]


Good morning. Today, the opposition has put forward two main arguments, preparation for life, and convenience. As you will soon see, these arguments are both false. But first, let us take a look at the opposition's models.

The opposition suggested that next year, starting from next year, colonisation in history, such as colonisation, will be replaced with current affairs. It'll be easier for teachers because news clippings will be provided and media, such as BTN. We would like to propose a countermodel that states that we should stick to the status quo as it already is, only having history. This is better because teachers will not have to run around looking through newspapers and taking out clippings for their class when they already have enough to do.

The opposition is suggesting that we don't learn about Australia and about how we came to be. This is suggesting that we do not learn about our background. The opposition tried to convince us that learning about current affairs will prepare students for the future. But history is an important aspect of life. We can learn about different civilizations and how they came to be.

The opposition stated that we must learn about climate change. But we are taught about the environment in school already. The affirmative team also said that teachers know more about now, and therefore, it is a great inconvenience to them. However, if it is a teacher's job to teach about a particular subject, such as history, then, of course, they would know about what they are teaching, and it would be easier for them.

My team and I strongly believe that schools should not teach current affairs instead of history. I will talk about alternatives and incomplete knowledge, while my second speaker will talk about financial detriments and educational impacts. In order to advance to the future, we must learn about the past. Most children know about current affairs already, yet it is not a school subject. How is this possible?

School isn't the only place you learn about things. Of course not, TV, newspapers, and the radio, just to name a few. Children who are willing to learn can find current affairs all around them and do not need to have a school subject with it. Even if kids aren't willing to learn about current affairs, there will be news updates, for example, in the ad breaks during their favourite program. They might get interested and watch the news later on in the evening.

And even the children who can't understand the news that well, there are programs, like BTN 'Behind the News,' which show the news in a simple way for children to understand. For example, you might have a current affairs class in which it says that Obama is leading in the polls. Unfortunately, you learned, you saw this in the TV last night so it's of absolutely no use to you. I'm sure it is obvious to you that we cannot get rid of history for something that is so easy to access.

Now for my second point, incomplete education, knowledge. In order to advance into the future, we must learn about the past. If we do not learn about the past, we will not, we will have an insufficient knowledge of the world around us. For example, you will learn in current affairs class that Kevin Rudd is going to say sorry to the Aborigines. But since history class has been cancelled, you don't know what he's going to say sorry for.


If we have a current affairs class, but no history, where would we be? We need to understand the past to be able to comprehend the future, I mean, what's happening next. As you can see, there is no reason to get rid of history and confuse ourselves when we can already access current affairs as I said first. In order to adapt to the future, we must learn about the past. Thank you.


[end playback]

TONY DAVEY: OK, so are you ready now to travel back in time and give your old self a bit of feedback as if you were the adjudicator?

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Yep, there's nothing I'd love to do more.


THEODORA VON ARNIM: So, I think that there'd be three main points of feedback that I would have for my 10-year-old self. One would be to have a more nuanced countermodel than just stick to the status quo. I think if I was wanting to be really tricky, actually, these days, what I would have tried to do on the side negative is actually propose an alternative, where you have both history and current affairs, which would make the negative side a pretty hot debate.

But, even if the model was stick to the status quo, I think it's always important to remember on the negative team, you don't have to just keep the exact status quo. You can suggest improvements to the status quo, so having history classes that have better kind of relations to what currently happens today. So, rather than learning about something that's happened in Europe or America, maybe the history class should focus on Australia and colonialism. So, that's what I would say for that kind of countermodel point.

The second piece of feedback I'd give myself is I think I could have structured my rebuttal a lot better. So, I clearly identified at the start of my speech what the two main points of the opposition were. But then I went into a dot point rebuttal. So I just said, they said this. We say this. They said this. We say that, without actually making it clear which arguments I was responding to.

Or, for example, saying, this was their first point. Here are our responses. We've shown you that that first point is totally incorrect, and then moving on to the second one. So, having that structure there makes it much easier for the adjudicator to keep track of what arguments have been won or lost by either team.

And the third piece of feedback I would have is that I could have done, I think, either a bit better on my timing. So, I think it sounded like I was running out of time there with my second point towards the end. Or even if I was running out of time, that second point, I think, still needed to have a bit more substance to it. So, I managed to get an example in and give a bit of an explanation.

But, I think what's really key to making your points stick in an adjudicator's mind is explaining to the adjudicator and the audience why those points are important and why it matters that we need to have complete knowledge and why that's something that we can't sort of live without as a society, or why that's so crucial. So, I think that would be the third main point of feedback.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, very thorough. Take that, young Theodora. Excellent. All right. So, the final step in this is the funnest bit. Are you now happy for me to call on you to give, what is it, the third, no, the third affirmative speech?

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Second affirmative.

TONY DAVEY: Second affirmative speech. You are now happy for me to call on you to give the second affirmative speech and do the opening where you rebut your 10-year-old self.

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Yes, I am. And I even got myself some palm cards to really take myself back into 2008.

TONY DAVEY: That's spectacular planning. Well played. All right. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome now the second affirmative speaker, Theodora, to continue the debate. Woo, yea, whoohoo.

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Ladies and gentlemen, the arguments of the first negative speaker had more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. The first point that they raised was that there are many alternatives to accessing current affairs knowledge, which is why we don't need to have it in school. But, this assumes that kids are interested in current affairs and actually take the time to read the news or listen to the radio. And I would say that most kids actually aren't as interested in current affairs as the negative team might think. Unless you actually force them to sit down in a classroom and learn, there would be a large majority of students that might never have access to this sort of knowledge.

But, even if those children did have access to knowledge and did want to learn about current affairs, the second thing that the first negative speaker missed was that those news sources aren't always reputable, fair, or unbiased. And I think although the first negative speaker didn't really understand how bad things could get in the following subsequent 10 years since that speech was delivered, the prevalence nowadays of fake news, online trolling, and the kind of uncertainty around what is produced and whether or not it's true, means that even if children were accessing the news there's no guarantee about its reliability. If they were accessing news via a current affairs class in the classroom, that would be a much more honest opinion and a much better moderated discussion than what they might be seeing at home or online.

On the second, so that's why the fact that there might be alternatives to accessing current affairs aren't actually good alternatives. And we do need a current affairs class in schools for children to be able to meaningfully access them.

The second point the first negative speaker had was that history is something that is fundamental to understanding current affairs, which means we can't scrap history in favour of current affairs. Whilst it is true that history does provide some context to current affairs, what we tell you on side affirmative is that that context is only useful if the history is actually related to current affairs. And a lot of what we teach in history at the moment has nothing to do with the world today and provides absolutely no meaning to children in their understanding of the current world.

We don't think there's any reason why a current affairs class wouldn't be able to also explain the events that led up to certain current affairs, and that way, children would have access to historical knowledge but in a context that is present and relevant to them. So, for those reasons, we're very proud to affirm.

TONY DAVEY: Excellent stuff. It is incredible to think back to a time where Fox News didn't exist. That's so true. How did you not see this coming? That's hilarious.

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Well, it's all 'Behind the News.' How lovely and

TONY DAVEY: That's right.


TONY DAVEY: I think to be fair, 'Behind the News' still exists at least. So, that's something.


TONY DAVEY: That was spectacular. Thank you so much for going back in time and rebutting your old self. And stay safe out there. We'll see you around.

THEODORA VON ARNIM: Thanks, Tony. Bye-bye.

End of transcript