Primary school debate club – 05. With Tony Davey

Duration: 23:24

Transcript – Primary school debate club – 05. With Tony Davey

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TONY DAVEY: Welcome back, primary school debaters. So, this week's workshop is all about responsibility. Almost every debate you see in primary school debating is going to be about kids your age, mostly primary school kids.

And almost every topic that means you're kind of asking yourself, should we or shouldn't we let this kid do this thing? And one of the main things you're going to find yourself arguing about again and again and again is responsibility, whether those kids are responsible enough to be allowed to do that thing.

I looked at last year's debating topics list. I think we set 30 topics for the regular rounds of the Premier's Debating Challenge for Years 5 and 6 in 2019. And almost all of them had some point where you would say to yourself, you're definitely going to need to talk about whether kids are responsible enough here.

Certainly, when you think about topics about pets, or there was a topic about babysitting, topics about money and whether kids should be allowed to have it, talks about playing Fortnite and other maybe dangerous games, there's lots and lots of times you'll be asking yourself, OK, are those kids responsible enough?

And obviously, one team is going to say, yeah, we can totally trust them. And the other team is going to be like, no, no, no. They're basically idiots. Let's not let them do anything. So, that's what today is about. It's about responsibility in debating and how to talk about it in a way that wins you debates.

So, the first thing you need to understand is that there are maybe two different levels you're going to be talking about responsibility on, not in every debate, but in lots of debates. The first level is that basic question. Are those kids responsible enough for that? You're having a fight over whether kids are or aren't responsible enough.

The second level is a tiny bit more complicated. That's where you're going to have a fight about whether what you're planning will or won't improve kids' responsibility. So sometimes, you're just debating about whether they're responsible enough. Sometimes, you're debating about the best way to improve their responsibility. And those two levels can also work together within a debate in complicated ways.

Anyway, let's begin with that first level, making arguments about whether kids are responsible enough. So, when you're making an argument about whether a kid is responsible enough, there are two different things you need to consider. The first thing is the kid. So, you want to talk about what makes that kid, that person, either responsible enough or too irresponsible.

The second thing you're going to want to talk about is the task, the thing that we're asking ourselves are they ready for. And you want to talk about whether it is really complex and risky and dangerous or relatively safe and easy.

So, when we're talking about responsibility, we're kind of matching the maturity of the kid with the difficulty of the task. And saying something about both the kid and the task will help you to win these debates a little bit more.

Let's start with things you can say about kids in debates about responsibility. So, when you're talking about kids' responsibility, the first thing that you need to think about is talking about their life experience.

So, if you think kids are responsible, you want to talk about the fact that they've actually by the time they're in Year 5 or 6 had lots of different experiences and been through lots of different situations so that they've prepared themselves in their own life. And you can talk about the different things they've done and been through when they're in Years 5 and 6 that mean they've had lots of life experiences.

Of course, the team that doesn't think kids are responsible enough, they're going to say they've had very little life experience. They've never really had to pay bills. They've never had to care for someone else. It's really unlikely that they have the life experience. They've just lived through like 20, 30 years less stuff than the grown-ups in their life. So, that's the first thing to talk about, what kind of life experience do they have.

The next thing you're going to want to talk about, if you want to prove they're responsible or not, is to talk about their education. So, a lot of times, we're educating kids in school with the knowledge they need to kind of be responsible in certain situations.

We might be teaching them about PDHPE things, but we might also just be giving the basic knowledge they need. So, we might be in science teaching them about how important food is to pets. And therefore, they have an understanding of why they need to feed their pet regularly.

There are lots of different ways we might be educating kids. In one of the toughest of these topics about whether kids should be allowed to vote, you can even have your own plan to educate kids on the political system, so that you can say they know enough. And that will make them responsible. So, you can talk about their education.

And as a separate part of that, you can also talk about how close they are to their education. Often, they're being taught about the things they need to be responsible about right at the moment when they're making the decision. So, they are being taught in school, and then they're going home and putting what they've taught in practise.

Whereas adults were taught this stuff 20 or 30 years ago. And maybe they've forgotten the lessons they learned in school. So, that's another way of saying maybe those kids have enough education and knowledge to make that choice.

Of course, if you're on the other side, and you're arguing that these kids aren't responsible enough, you need to talk about how that education doesn't prepare them for this level of responsibility. Talk about how they're really good at just ignoring what their teachers say in PDHPE classes, about how they tend to tune out, and about how they're good at learning maths and applying it to maths homework.

But they're not great at learning life lessons in school and then applying those life lessons. Because you've kind of got to live through things before you can understand them. Having a teacher tell you about them just doesn't really work.

The next thing you might say about those kids is that they have this desire to please the adults in their life. So, they do have this inner desire to be loved by their parents and be considered good kids. So, they're really likely to try to behave in a kind of grown-up way.

Of course, the team that thinks they're not responsible is going to talk about how kids have also this desire to please themselves, to have fun and to muck around, and that that's going to override their desire to be good and be complimented by their parents on how good they are.

So, you can talk about their life experience, talk about their education, talk about their desire to please their parents or themselves. And the last thing you might want to talk about is that there are lots of trusted people in their lives that they can go to for advice when they're making decisions.

So, they won't be making a decision or doing a thing on their own. They might ask their parents about it or ask an uncle or an aunt. They might ask teachers or older brothers. So, there are lots of ways they can prepare themselves to be really responsible.

So, when you're talking about whether or not kids are responsible enough, you want to be talking about, first of all, how much life experience they have, second of all, how much education they have and how well they remember, third of all, how much they want to either please their parents and grown-ups in their lives or have fun and please themselves, and finally, how many trusty people they can turn to in their lives or how those people aren't always trustworthy if you think kids on up to the task.

So, once you've made those arguments about why kids themselves can or can't be trusted, you also want to talk about how complex or risky the task is in the debate that we're asking them to be responsible for. There are lots of different things you can say about whether that task is or isn't too risky or complex.

The first thing you might try is you might talk about the fact that kids won't be doing the task on their own, that there'll be parents, there'll be teachers in schools there, to ensure that things stay on track and nothing explodes.

So, for instance, if we're thinking about whether a kid might be responsible enough for a pet, and the task is looking after that pet, we might say even if something went wrong, and that kid, for instance, forgot to feed that cat for a month, a parent would just step in and actually feed that cat and remind them.

So, it's actually not that risky a task because nothing can really go wrong. So, you see, you want to talk about the way that parents and teachers and schools will help to minimise the risk of these tasks, even if kids maybe screw them up a little bit.

Remember, on the other side of the debate, you want to push back on that and say that these parents and grown-ups can't always be trusted. I know your parents are awesome, but there are lots of parents who maybe aren't as involved and maybe don't have time. It's possible those parents are way too busy. For instance, if they're on a farm, they might be working miles and miles away down on the farm when kids are doing these possibly dangerous or difficult tasks.

It's also true that often parents and grown-ups who should be regulating you are kind of too dumb about stuff to do anything and know what's going on. So, for instance, if it's a technology-based thing, they might be like what's TikTok? And you might be, well, it's the new online maths learning game where they use clocks to teach kids about time. And parents would go, oh, yeah, sure. That sounds great. My kids should be on there all the time learning about maths.

So, you can say parents are too busy, not always the best people to look after their kids, and maybe don't understand the kinds of modern day problems that their kids are facing. So, it's really important. Don't just assume parents are all awesome and will look after their kids 100%. And the same goes for teachers and schools. Those people are really busy. They've got a lot of marking to do. Maybe they don't have time to properly look after you and make sure you're being safe.

So, that's one thing you want to talk about, whether or not there are parents and grown-ups there to help make the task less risky. The next thing you might want to talk about is this question of how big the risk was in the first place. So, you want to talk about how dangerous or how simple the thing is.

One thing I'd say about that is that primary school kids always overestimate how complex or dangerous the thing is that adults are allowed to do, but they're not. So, they say to themselves, oh, that's such a grown-up thing I couldn't possibly argue that it was really easy and really safe, but you could. A lot of the things you think are quite difficult and quite dangerous aren't actually that hard to do.

So, if you look at something like whether or not we should let kids vote, a lot of kids would say, oh, only an adult who knows all about politics should be allowed to vote. It's too difficult. And they might accidentally vote for the wrong person if they didn't know what they were doing.

Of course, the truth is adults vote really stupidly all of the time. Often, they base their votes on who they like the look of the best, whether they like somebody's name or not. Sometimes, they just vote for people because they voted for them last time and because their parents voted for the same group of people.

So, lots of people make stupid decisions about voting all the time. It's actually just not that risky a proposition. There's no reason we couldn't let kids make those same stupid choices. So, don't overestimate how scary or how complex the tasks are.

One good trick for that is to talk about different situations where we're already saying that task is about the right level of complexity and danger for a kid. So, if you're talking about whether a kid can be trusted to feed their cat every night, you might say, look, we already pretty much trust kids to do homework every night or every couple of nights. And we leave them to get that done without many parents butting in and making sure. So, we can surely trust them to remember this ritual of looking after a cat they really, really love.

Sometimes, we say like, for instance, your parents might let you ride a bike around the neighbourhood unsupervised or go and meet friends at a park. That's pretty common for kids. And you might say that that level of responsibility is pretty similar to the kind of complexity and danger of being online and playing Fortnite on your own because you're kind of maybe likely to bump up against some strangers or get some bad influences.

But you're already being trusted to go to the park. This is pretty much just a virtual park. So, point to different situations and tasks where a similar level of complexity and danger is considered OK for those kids.

Of course, if you're on the other team, you probably think the kinds of situations kids are used to are very different from how complex and dangerous this new task is. So, kids aren't up for it. You know that thing where kids do their homework, so they can be trusted to feed their cat?

You could say, sure, kids do their homework. But that's because they know no one can step in and save them from a teacher if they don't. They also know that if they don't bother to feed their cat because they couldn't be bothered getting up off the couch, their parent will do it for them. So, it's a very different situation in terms of responsibility.

Remember those people going to the park and how that might be the same as playing on Fortnite? Well, the other team is going to say, actually, Fortnite is a much more dangerous and complex thing to be involved in compared to just going to a park with your friends.

If a 60-year-old man comes up to you at a park and says, hi, I'm a little girl in primary school, want to play, you and your friends who are actually there are going to go and tell the police about how stupid that person was. When that happens on Fortnite, you probably don't have your friends there. And you maybe have no way of knowing whether that person is actually who they say they are.

So, now you know that you want to talk about both the quality of the kid in terms of their life experience, their education, their desire to be a grown-up and the level of advice they have, and the complexity and danger of the task, in terms of whether they're allowed to do similar things, just how dangerous or complex it is, and whether or not there are parents or teachers to step in and make sure that it's safe.

The last thing I'd say about these arguments about whether kids are or aren't responsible enough is that they're often a little bit too clever and a little bit too sophisticated to fit in that argument framework we talked about earlier. So, you definitely want to do PEEL when you're talking about these kinds of ideas. You want to start by saying my team's something argument will show that kids are too irresponsible to have a pet, something like that. And you want to finish with for example.

And you definitely want to have a, and that's why we shouldn't give kids cats, at the end of your argument. But when you're explaining, it might not work to be like, do you remember this, right now, after the change, that's important because. Those steps won't work if you're talking about more difficult things like whether children are responsible and what they are like and what the task is like.

So, instead, you might try something else. For instance, in explain, you could go, firstly, let me tell you why kids themselves are really responsible. Second of all, let me tell you why the task we're asking them to do isn't too difficult or dangerous for them. And then thirdly, that's important because you still want to do that step.

So, instead of right now, you do the kids themselves and what makes them trustworthy. And instead of after the change, you do the task and why it's something they could or couldn't accomplish, and then you go that's important because. See how that works.

Now, there's one last thing to say about all of that. You might be losing that fight about whether or not kids are responsible enough for your thing, but there's one last thing you can try. And that is you can say, look, OK, maybe kids aren't quite as responsible as we thought they were. But, we've got a plan to teach them responsibility by letting them do this thing and get more and more responsible at it.

So, that's the second kind of argument you might make about responsibility in debates, not about whether kids are or aren't responsible, but about the best way to teach them responsibility and make sure they grow up responsible young people.

So, let's talk about those kinds of arguments. First of all, arguments about the best way to teach a kid responsibility do fit into that old PEEL framework really well. You'd just be like right now, two or three sentences, after the change, two or three sentences. That's important because two or three sentences. So, you can go back to that old framework there.

The next thing you need to know is that if you're going to argue that kids are, this is a good way to teach kids responsibility, you need to first of all have proven or have won the fight over whether the task is really complex or dangerous. Does that make sense?

So, you can't be like, oh, sure, it's a really complex and dangerous thing. But, maybe if we let them do it a few times, then they'll get more and more responsible. And they'll be able to handle it. If that thing is really dangerous, or there are really bad outcomes, you can't just be like, oh, well, let's let them practise until they get it right.

So, you can't say, sure, when you give a kid a pet, that animal's life is in that kid's hands. And if they forget to feed that pet, sure, that pet is going to die. But, once they've killed four or five cats from not feeding them, they'll probably get the message about responsibility. And we'll have more responsible grown-ups overall.

See, that's not OK. You can't just say, oh, we're got to let a bunch of cats die so that some kid can be responsible. You've got to begin by saying, actually, the stakes are really low. It's not dangerous. I promise you know cats are going to die. Those parents are just going to step in and help you out. So, that's the first thing you need to know. You can't say our plan is to teach some responsibility if the risks are really, really big and you've already lost that fight.

The next tip about making arguments like this is that it's really important you don't just assume that kids learn the lessons that you want them to learn. A lot of the time, kids in debates are just like, so we give them a cat. They forget to feed the cat. Now they know to feed the cat. They're super responsible kids.

And that doesn't work in most debates. You've got to talk about how they learned those lessons, what they feel and what they go through, in order to win this argument about making kids more responsible.

So, if some kid decides that it's a really, really good idea to teach all of the family pets how to be a synchronised swimming team, and most of those pets drown, you can't just be like, well, he's learned his lesson. He'll never do that again. For all you know, the lesson that kid learned was I need more cats in my synchronised swimming team. Or perhaps if the water was even deeper, they'd swim more furiously. And they'd all survive. So, you can't just assume kids will learn the rules.

What you want to do is talk about what kids go through when things go wrong. So, you talk about how parents will criticise them and punish them. Talk about how that will feel and how they won't want to feel that way again. Talk about how parents will explain why the thing was so dangerous and tell you why you shouldn't have done it and that you can learn from that and therefore continue to improve.

So, if you think, if you want to argue kids will become more responsible, you have to prove the stakes of the thing we're asking to do are quite low. And no one's going to die if they get it wrong. And you also have to talk about how they're going to learn the lesson because parents correct them, talk about them, punish them and they feel bad about it, teach them how to do a better job next time, and they come out a better person with more experience.

Of course, if you don't think that will work, you'll say, parents might punish you, but that just turns kids off and makes them angrier or makes them think that they should rebel even more. Kids are notoriously bad at listening to their parents when parents tell them that they're wrong. Kids are only interested in having fun. So, you talk about the way kids won't learn the lessons that you've been talking about.

So, that's kind of an overview of the different ways you can argue about responsibility in a debate. First of all, remember there are two different kinds of arguments about responsibility, one that just goes are these kids responsible enough for this and the second one that you can add that is how do we make these kids responsible and make sure they grow up becoming more and more responsible.

Next, when you're making arguments about whether a kid is responsible or not, make sure you talk about both the kid and the things about that kid that might make them trustworthy as well as the task and the things about that task that might be complex and dangerous or simple and safe.

Then when you're talking about whether or not kids are going to grow more responsible, which might be a good response if you're losing the fight about whether they're currently responsible enough, you might go, look, even if they aren't responsible enough right now, at least we've got a plan to introduce them to this thing and start making them responsible. That's often a really good idea.

But you do need to make sure you've proven the stakes and the danger are really quite low. And you do need to actually talk about how they're going to learn the lesson and become more responsible. Don't just say, they do this. It blows up. They say to themselves, I won't blow stuff up again. Because a lot of kids don't think that way. You've got to believably tell us that they will learn their lessons.

So, hopefully, that helps you to start making some arguments about responsibility. Like I said at the beginning, almost every primary school debating topic we set, you might want to say something about whether kids are trustworthy and responsible. So, all of that stuff might end up in any debate maybe as an argument, maybe as a piece of rebuttal, maybe as a small point of one argument that you're trying to make.

But remember, when you're talking about whether or not kids are responsible or whether they're going to become responsible, separate them into the kid and the task and give us lots of reasons to believe they are or aren't up to it. Hope that was helpful. See you guys soon.

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