Primary school debate club – 04. With Tony Davey

Duration: 17:23

Transcript – Primary school debate club – 04. With Tony Davey

TONY DAVEY: Hi there primary school debaters. So, welcome back to hopefully the funnest one of these workshops that we're going to do in a series to keep you busy while you're in lockdown and you're not able to get to your normal debates or your normal workshops.

This one is all about rebuttal. Rebuttal is the funnest part of debating, not only because it has the word butt in it, which is awesome, but because if you do it right, you can destroy the hopes and dreams of the other team and crush their tiny hearts, and that will make you feel awesome about yourself.

So, a rebuttal is definitely great fun, but it's also probably the scariest part of debating, because a lot of the time you're only just hearing what the other team has said before you have to get up and explain why it's wrong. So, you don't have a lot of time to write stuff down or think stuff through. So, that's what rebuttal is. It's when you listen to the other team and in the opening section of your speech, you attack their ideas and explain why those ideas are wrong and hopefully make them die just a little bit inside.

All right. One last thing about rebuttal. It's also the bit that you practise most of debating. Because when you think about it, rebuttal is kind of how you deal with your parents. You listen to them, they tell you stuff, and then you explain back why they were wrong. So, rebuttal is something that you will be able to get the hang of pretty easily. Here we go then. Some steps to help you start doing really, really good rebuttal.

Now, the first step is just to remind everybody what the thing is you're going to rebut. The other team say bunches and bunches of stuff, so you've got to zero in on the particular thing you're going to attack. And the way you do that is you start by saying, the other team's idea was and then give their idea really short heading.

So, say the other team's idea was that if we were doing a topic about how we should ban homework. What if the affirmative were saying, look, homework is just pointless revision. Kids know everything about it already, and that means they end up frustrated that they have to do it again and again. It's probably one of the most common arguments that I hear in primary school debating. So, the other team have said that and you want to attack it. You'd start your battle by saying, the other team's idea was that homework is just revision and that frustrates kids.

So, it's a really short summary of what they said so that everyone knows what you're about to attack. They're not wondering to themselves, wait, what's this all about? Because sometimes when you're doing lots of rebuttal in a row, good kids end up just kind of rattling off reasons why the other team is wrong. You need to at the beginning of each attack say the other team's idea was give it a good heading.

One last thing about that step. We call it the other team's idea was because the main thing you want to rebut are those key ideas the other team had. Maybe that will be an argument they had. Maybe it'll be an idea that formed a part of their argument. Maybe that idea will be something that came up during their rebuttal.

But, as long as it's an idea, it's worth attacking. That's very different to attacking every single sentence they said and every mini little idea they had. Every word they say isn't worth rebutting. You want to attack their biggest ideas. So, that's why it's called the other team's idea was. Again, so you've done that.

The next step is even easier. You're just going to say this sentence. We have two reasons why that's wrong. You might be asking yourself, Tony, what if I only have one reason written down why they were wrong? Well, you have to suck it up and say two reasons. Just because you've only got one written down doesn't mean you shouldn't promise the audience two and then kind of hope that you accidentally come up with a second one on the spot.

So, it's never OK to just promise one reason why they're wrong. You should always aim for two. And to be clear, if you have three or four, it is OK to be like, we have three reasons why the other team is wrong. It's probably not OK to say we have 10,000 reasons why the other team is wrong. You won't have time for that many reasons.

OK. So, you said the other team's idea was and given it a head. Then you said we have two reasons why that's wrong. Now you're going to say firstly, and it's time to give the first reason you can think of why the other team is so wrong. The rule for this first reason is that it has to be what grown up debaters call direct rebuttal. That's just a fancy way of saying it has to be some version of nuh-uh, that is flat out wrong and completely untrue and I hate it and you should never have said it. So, it can't be friendly. It can't admit that everything is sort of right but just a little bit wrong.

So, let's pretend we're rebutting that idea that homework is just pointless revision and that makes kids frustrated. Your firstly shouldn't be firstly, that's true, but maybe their parents can help. You don't want to say that's true at the beginning. Equally, some kids will go firstly, not all homework is frustrating revision. And in the audience we're like, what, is only 90% of it frustrating revision? That doesn't sound great for you.

So, don't say that's true but, or not all. Say we don't buy it. None of that is true. So, you can deny what the other team is talking about is happening. Oftentimes the negatives, firstly, is just we don't think the problem exists in the first place. You might say firstly, it's just not true that homework is mostly revision. Homework includes research, often includes reading new things and new exercises and new games. It's almost never that kind of times table revision the other team is talking about.

See? So, you want to directly be like, firstly, that's just flat out untrue. Cool. So, that's what your firstly is going to look like. You're going to think up a reason why they're flat out wrong and you're going to be really harsh about it. You're going to be, it's just not true as opposed to, not all or look, that's true but.

All right, so you've done your first reason. Now it's time to move on and say your secondly. You're probably going to have to make this secondly up on the spot, so I'm going to give you some tips for ways to come up with a secondly. The first thing that you might try is you might try saying secondly and then just giving us another angry reason why the other team was wrong. Just do more direct rebuttal.

You might say secondly, homework isn't frustrating because teachers work really hard to make it fun and enjoyable for kids. So, it's not true that kids are annoyed that they're revising their maths. They actually really enjoy it. See, so you just say secondly and then give us a different angry reason why what they said was flat out untrue.

All right, but sometimes you can't think of one of those. The next thing you might try is to say that what they told us is unimportant. Show us that it's not important. And if you're really good, compare it to something you've been talking about in the debate that is really important. So, you might say secondly, even if it's true that students get a little bit frustrated by learning their maths homework because they feel like they know it all, the truth is it's really important we make sure they remember all of that stuff. So, it doesn't matter if they get a little bit frustrated. It's more important that they remember their maths, so that they can get a great job.

See how that works? You're like, it's just not that important that kids are getting frustrated and maybe wasting a tiny bit of time re-learning something they already know. The bigger picture is that kids need to learn this stuff and that's what matters the most. So, you're saying even if their idea was true, it's not that important, especially compared to one of our awesome ideas.

OK, quick hint. When you're saying something's unimportant, you can either say it doesn't affect many people and that's why it's unimportant or you can say the effect on those people is really, really small. You can't say that homework doesn't affect many people, because everyone has to do it. But you can say the effect on them is really small, because they're only getting a teensy bit frustrated.

All right. One last thing you might try in your secondly if you couldn't think of a reason why they were wrong and you couldn't think of a reason why their idea wasn't important. That third thing is called a brain fart. It's a technical debating term. And basically what it means is you stand there trying to think of a secondly and you pause for a minute and you're looking at the sky. Nothing comes out of your brain.

And then you go, meh, and you move on with your next bit of rebuttal or your next argument. No one's going to hate you for that. If you promise a secondly and then you're not able to deliver it on the spot, everyone's just going to be like, what a brave kid. They're trying to think on their feet and explain extra stuff. So, that is a perfectly fine option.

All right, the one last thing that I would say to you guys is that the most important tip I can give you about rebuttal is that you mostly have really, really great ideas. Like I say, you practise fighting with your family all the time. So, the truth is you're really good at hearing what someone else says and figuring out what's wrong with it and what you want to say.

The problem you often have is you write down what they said on a palm card and then you write down your one line response and then you get up and you say it. What you write down on your palm card in rebuttal isn't meant to be all that you say. It's meant to be the heading of what you're going to say. So, you should read out that palm card, but then you need to look up and just explain why they were wrong in a little bit more detail.

So, here's what my palm card for the rebuttal that we've just done would look like. See, it doesn't have much written on it. But you've got to make up the sentences on the spot, so that you then look up and add a little bit more detail each time.

OK, here's what I think we should do now. We're going to practise a bit of rebuttal together. I'll get you guys to pause the video. Once we've watched an argument, you can try to do some rebuttal, and then I'll show you what my rebuttal would have looked like. I thought of this point about us watching a primary school kid from one of the past state finals because we have all of those on video.

But I think when their parents agreed that we could film them, they weren't really consenting to thousands and thousands of young primary school kids trying to crush and destroy their children with rebuttal. So, instead I found this video from earlier this year of one of our best coaches, Indigo Crossweller doing an argument about banning homework. So, I want you to watch this and then we'll take a little bit of time afterwards to come up with some rebuttal. Here we go.

INDIGO CROSSWELLER: Hi guys. My name's Indigo, and I've been doing debating for a long time. So, I'm going to give you guys an example of a primary school argument about why homework stops kids from getting enough exercise. My team's second argument will show that kids aren't getting enough exercise because they have to do their homework.

Right now when kids get home from school, they sit down at their desks and they're just doing lots of math problems and doing lots of boring reading, and that means they're not getting outside. They're sitting down a lot and not doing any exercise. After the change, when kids get home from school, they won't have anything to do. So, to fill the time, they might do something like join their local soccer team and they'll go out and do that and get much more exercise. That's important because we want kids to be healthy and happy and exercise is an important part of being a healthy kid.

For example, a kid might get home from school. They'll have nothing to do, so they'll do something like go out and play soccer with their friends or join a local netball team. That means that every afternoon after school, they might stay in their backyard practicing their shooting or they might go and play and train with their team. At the end of the week, they're getting much more exercise than they were before. That's going to help them be really healthy. And that's why we should ban homework.

TONY DAVEY: OK. An excellent argument there from Indigo on why we should ban homework for kids so they can get more exercise. What we want you guys to do now is pause the video and try to write a piece of rebuttal that follows the four steps we've just learned. Don't worry, they're about to come up on the screen so you can copy them. So, pause the video and write some rebuttal to Indigo, and then we'll come back and I'll do some.

OK, so hopefully you've destroyed Indigo a little bit already. And now you're going to compare your rebuttal to my bit of rebuttal. I'll actually give you three reasons why Indigo is wrong, because I want you to see extra bits and learn a little bit more, but also because I secretly hate Indigo and think it will be fun to crush and destroy her that little bit extra. So, here I go got.

The other team's idea was that we should ban homework because it gets in the way of kids getting enough exercise. We've got three reasons why that's wrong. Firstly, we say it is just not true that kids aren't getting enough exercise. Kids have lots of time in their lives, and they do do lots and lots of running around and sport and playing. They have recess, they have lunch, they have after school, they have the weekends, and 30 minutes of homework some nights just doesn't get in the way of that exercise.

Secondly, we just don't buy that if you took away homework kids would suddenly go and join more sports teams. We think that what kids would probably replace homework time with is sitting on the couch or on TikTok time. They'd laze around watching screens because they feel like they already do enough exercise. So, it's not true that getting rid of homework would make them fitter.

But thirdly, even if it was true that when we got rid of homework kids got a little bit more exercise, that's just not that important, because they'd be missing out on something much more important, which is getting a great education. At the end of the day, if you're really, really super fit, there aren't that many extra jobs for you. Maybe you could join the Sydney Swans Midfield, but if you've got a great education and you're really smart, that's much more important, because there are heaps and heaps of jobs out there available for you.

OK, so I went firstly, one reason why she's wrong, they actually get a lot of exercise. Secondly, another reason why she's flat out wrong. Kids wouldn't get fitter. They would just sit there on the couch watching TikTok. And thirdly I went, OK, even if it were true they would get fitter, that's really not as important as whether or not they get a great education.

So, hopefully you came up with some of those same ideas as well. I'm sure you did. I'll give you one last tip about your rebuttal. And the tip is in debating, the affirmative and the negative are kind of imagining what two different worlds would be like. The affirmative is trying to convince you, wouldn't it be great if we lived in this world where there was no homework? And the negative is trying to say, no, this world we live in where there is homework, that's the world we want to stay in.

And that language about worlds can be really, really useful when you're doing your rebuttal. It sounds really smart to say stuff like, secondly, in their world, those kids are just going to lie around sitting on the couch anyway doing unproductive things. At least in our world, those kids are exercising their minds by doing homework while not getting that exercise. So, that's a useful tip to try to frame your rebuttal a little bit. You can say in their world, what they're looking for is actually really bad. In our world, it's actually a little bit better.

All right, that one's a little bit advanced, but hopefully you get the idea of what rebuttal will look like in debates. Remember, don't try to write everything down. Don't worry if you haven't thought up everything before you stand up on the spot. And have fun, because rebuttal is the funnest bit of debating.

Cool. All right. We'll be back next week with some more stuff. And later in the week, by the way, we'll have one of our best adjudicators watch herself in a state final about banning homework, and you can practise more and more what rebuttal should look like, because we're going to get her to do a rebuttal against herself as well. OK, stay safe out there.

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