Primary school debate club – 06. With Tony Davey

Duration: 31:02

Transcript – Primary school debate club – 06. With Tony Davey

TONY DAVEY: OK. Welcome back, guys. So this week is all about how to prepare your case for a debate. I'm not sure if you know this, but every debate in the Premier's Debating Challenge is a one-hour prep debate. What that basically means is you're going to rock up at someone else's school, or they're going to rock up at yours, you're going to find out the topic on the spot, flip a coin to figure out who the affirmative is and who the negative is, and then you'll pretty much be locked in a room for an hour with no written notes and no phone and no internet or anything, and you'll have that one hour to come up with your case, and then you'll straightaway get up and you'll have the debate. So that's what debating looks like, and it's good to have a bit of a plan going into that one hour so that you know what you're going to do and you can keep on track.

There's no right way to do it, but I thought what we might do today is just go through a simple topic. So we're going to go through that we should ban homework in primary schools, and you can kind of see the kind of things that I would do with my team if I were in that debate and I was spending that one hour prepping. So this is generally what works for me. You might be doing stuff differently to this. Don't worry. And also, don't worry, we're not going to spend a full hour on this video going through everything. It's only going to take 15 or 20 minutes, because we'll speed some parts of it up.

OK. The last thing I want to say before we leap into it is that when like four of you are locked in the room, you do need to cooperate a lot, right? So you have to be nice to each other. You can't have anyone push anyone around. That's all pretty obvious. But the most useful thing I found is just to take the fourth speaker and kind of put them in charge of stuff, like timing, keeping an eye on time, making sure you move from step to step, and then if anyone really can't agree, the fourth speaker just makes the call, and everyone kind of agrees, OK, that's what the fourth speaker said, that's how our team is going to do it. So everyone's probably going to cooperate. You're probably not going to have any fights. But it's good to say the fourth speaker's in charge. They're going to do all the timing and remind us to hurry up at this point and ask that question. And if they say something is the way we're going, that's the way we're going.

OK. So what are the steps to a really good one-hour prep? The first thing you want to do when you get in there is spend five minutes just brainstorming. So write down everything that comes into your mind. It could be anything. It's most likely going to be arguments you think will work, or like chunks of argument that you think might work. It might be something about definition though or a little thing you need to warn yourself about. Whatever it is, scribble it down. It's really important for these five minutes that everybody stay quiet. Right? Most teams have a noisy person on that team, and that noisy person isn't always, like, the best person to listen to all of the time. Sometimes they miss stuff, which I guess is a polite way of saying that sometimes, like, the noisiest person isn't the smartest person. So everybody has to stay completely quiet for those five minutes.

All right, that five minutes is up. The next thing you're going to do is five minutes of what we're going to call download. That means you're just going to go around the table and every kid on the team is going to say, here's what I thought during the brainstorm. I thought this would be really important. I thought about this. I wrote this down. Everyone should listen. Don't jump in and be like, oh, I totally thought of that too, only mine is much better. Everyone gets their one, one and a half minutes to just chat through what they wrote down and what they thought.

During this step, no idea is too silly. OK? I mean, obviously later on you're going to start crossing off arguments and you're going to look back and say, wow, some of those ideas were really, really silly. But just nod and be nice during the download. During this period, it's really helpful if you can start taking notes on what everyone is saying. You're like writing down a combined brainstorm. Sometimes you'll find there's a whiteboard in the room, and kids really like using that whiteboard. Honestly, though, this stuff all works pretty well on an A4 pad of paper.

But Tony, I hear you ask, where can I possibly fit and draw a picture of a brain with like lightning bolts coming out of it to all of the ideas on a piece of paper? How can I do that? Well, A, you could just draw it a lot smaller and I think it would work. But B, having a list of ideas works pretty well even if you don't arrange them around a cloud or a bit of a brain. So don't worry too much about that. All right.

So here's a list that I brainstormed up earlier. These are like all the different things that I thought of when I was going through this topic in my brain for the affirmative and asking myself, oh, OK, what kinds of ideas would we have? So in the first five minutes I would scribble all of this down, and in the second five minutes I would explain that to my team.

OK, great stuff, Tony. Once you've done your five minutes of brainstorming and you've done your five minutes of download, you want to spend the next five minutes quickly doing a set-up for the debate. That basically means you need to do a quick definition, and you need to quickly figure out who the stakeholders are in the debate, because that's going to be super useful later. Remember, a stakeholder is just a group that has like a stake or an interest in the outcome of the debate.

All right. So let's start with the definition. Hopefully you guys have been watching all of our definition videos and you're kind of a gun at defining topics by now. If you're not, it's really simple. The team just needs to answer the questions-- where will it happen? What are the details? And when? So for the topic that we should ban homework for primary schools, it's really, really easy and it won't take any time at all. Where is all Australian primary schools. The details are there's not going to be homework in those primary schools anymore. Teachers aren't allowed to set it. Kids are still allowed to study if they want to, but no teacher in no school is going to set homework for anybody ever in primary school. When will this happen? You might have a project that you're working on that's due in like two or three weeks. So it makes sense to leave it till you've handed that in. I think if we leave this till the start of next term, boom, that will be a great win.

OK, that's kind of the definition. The fourth speaker would probably write that down, and so would the first speaker so they're ready to go. The last thing I'd say about that definition step is that the negative should do it as well, but they can do it even quicker, right? Because they're not actually going to deliver a definition, but it's still good for them to figure out what the basic ground rules of the debate are going to be. So they should do a really rough one there as well. They should basically pretend they're the affirmative for a second.

OK. The last thing that I said you want to do during this set-up five minutes is just remind yourself who the key stakeholders are in this debate. So let's think about it. We should ban homework for primary school kids. The most obvious stakeholders are the primary school kids, because they're like written there. So they're one group. Another group that I can see being affected by this are the teachers, because they've got to set the homework and mark the homework. Another group that I can imagine being affected by this are parents, because often they have to help you or force you to go and do it. And from there, it gets pretty silly. You know, maybe principals, but honestly, who cares about principals? The wider community? I don't think so, probably not. So I would stick with those three main ones-- primary school kids, teachers, and parents.

The last thing you want to do very quickly is make sure you know what order you care about those groups in, because that might be important later. I think it's pretty obvious. The primary school kids are the most important ones. That's the biggest group, and they're also the ones that are in the topic. Teachers are probably the second most important group. There probably aren't as many teachers as parents, but they're much more involved in homework. And then parents are only kind of important, right? Now, you don't have to say 'here are our stakeholders' at any point during the debate, but they'll help you with your case. So that's what you should be doing during those five minutes of set-up.

Now let's move on to the most important part of this one-hour prep. It's going to take about 25 minutes hopefully, and it's called developing your case. This is the main thing that you're going to do. Basically, what you want to do is you want to start by taking your brainstormed list of ideas and grouping them together and shuffling them a little bit till you've got a bunch of arguments that are kind of what your team is going to talk about.

So let's start by doing a little bit of grouping. I think a lot of these would go together really, really nicely. So the obvious ones are the ones about homework frustrating kids. That's kind of the same as the one about how it's just revision anyway. And even though it's kind of opposite, it's also kind of the same as the idea that it's frustrating if you can't get any help, right? Along with that, this idea that you do enough work at school anyway, that's probably the same kind of thing, plus the idea that you don't get to relax in the afternoon. I think all of those kind of grouped together into a homework is really frustrating, because either you know it all already, in which case you're like, what is this about, teacher? How stupid do you think I am? Why am I still doing this? Or, you don't know it and it's still frustrating because you don't have any help, so you can't actually learn. I think that's one group that obviously goes together. You might leave some out or have those as separate groups, but I'm going to put them together.

The next ones that I think work together are maybe the one about how it's harder for kids who don't have their parents there to help them, although, of course, that could have been in the first one, and also the one about how it's unfair for kids who have bad access to the internet, right? So those unfairness ones kind of go together.

I think the one about exercise looks a lot like the one about missing out on music and dance. It looks like the one about how you can't read or study your own stuff. But I think I'm going to put it separately because I think exercise is about, like, your physical health, whereas other stuff like music and dance and reading and kind of going after and doing whatever you're passionate about, that's more about your own personal passions and education. It kind of goes with the extracurricular stuff. So I think I'll leave the exercise one separate from all the other stuff about extracurricular stuff.

The next two that I think obviously go together are the ones about, like, how you might be a loner because you don't get to hang out with your friends, and about how it gets in the way of family time. Those seem to be pretty obviously groupable as stuff about social life. And you might squish the annoying for parents one in there, maybe not, I don't know. The environment one kind of has to end up sitting on its own. All right. So that's kind of how I would group those arguments to start thinking about them.

Excellent stuff, Tony. Very insightful. Now you've got like-- what is it, like, seven different ideas that might be arguments written up. It'll be really useful now to rank those ideas. So we should go through and do that. I think the first one, the most important one, is this one about how homework frustrates kids. It's clearly about the biggest stakeholder group, which is primary school kids, and it's, like, got lots and lots of parts to it. So it's big and it's important. I'm calling it number one.

I think number two is probably the one about how homework stops you doing your own personalised learning, like reading a book you care about, going to a museum, or doing dance or music and pursuing your passions, pursuing your education. There's lots to that, and it's still about that biggest group, the kids, and most importantly it's about their education. So it's really important.

It gets trickier from here. I think maybe the next one in terms of importance might be the one about exercise. It's about a really big, important group like primary school kids, and we all know how important it is for primary school kids to be healthy. So yeah, I think I'm going to put that number three.

Number four-- what would I do? I think I'd probably do the social stuff at number four, right? So the point about that is it's kind of like physical health and exercise, but it's mental health, because it's about your friends and your family and feeling connected. It's still about a really big group of people, like every kid ever, so I would put that fourth.

The next one, probably the unfairness stuff, right? So that's about education, which is really, really important, but it's only about some of the kids, because not all kids don't have access to parents or access to the internet, right? It's probably only a few kids. So it's less important. I'm going to put that down at what-- what are we up to, like number five? That just leaves the one about how it annoys parents a whole bunch. Yeah, that definitely belongs at number six, because I don't care very much about parents. What can you do about them? And the last one there is the environment. The environment wasn't even a stakeholder in the first place. So it definitely belongs at the bottom of the list.

All right. So I've kind of ranked those arguments. Obviously on your paper they won't magically move around as you talk. You could probably just write numbers next to them. OK.

Now that you've got like a ranked list of arguments, the most useful thing to do is to start asking yourself a few key questions. The first question you want to ask is this. Do we have too many or too few arguments? Seven is like too many. So we need to get rid of some of them. I want to break any hearts, but the first one I'm going to get rid of is the environment one. Like I said, the environment wasn't a stakeholder anyway, and frankly it's a bit of a silly argument. I know you guys have grown up without being able to watch and see what a really good environmental policy looks like. Me too. But I like to think that if the government ever got up and said, our plan to fix the environment is to ban homework, you would say to yourself, well, yay, because I hate homework, but also it's a pity we're all going to burn, because banning homework probably won't fix the environment very well at all. So let's get rid of it. It's not part of it.

Now, this is important. There might be someone in your team who really disagrees with that. Maybe they super love the environment and they're like arguing with you and they're like, mother nature is the ultimate stakeholder. It's really important that you don't hit that person, however lightly. In fact, the best thing to do is just try to chat it out a little bit. So disagreements, they should be talked out really quickly, and then you can have a quick vote. If the vote's tied, just let the fourth speaker decide for you or step in once the chat about which way you should go has gone on too long.

So there are going to be disagreements, like some people really want the environment point and some people don't. Don't fight about it. Have a quick chat, make sure you decide, and move on. Don't let it worry you. The truth is because you're a kid, some of the stuff you think up is probably going to be a bit silly as well, right? You're not perfect at this. So you don't want to get too angry with people on your team who come up with their own silly ideas.

Finally, by the way, I'm going to ditch the parents argument as well. Once parents have kids, they kind of have to accept that those kids are going to be annoying. There's kind of no getting away from it. So that argument's gone as well.

Now, maybe you didn't have too many arguments. Maybe you didn't have enough arguments. The next question that's really worth asking is, are there any stakeholder groups that I've left out? If you think about our list before, we really haven't said anything about teachers yet. And even though we've got too many arguments, I actually think that's really, really important. So I'm going to add onto the list-- which is not helpful, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm going to add an argument about how once teachers don't have to set and mark and go through all the trouble that homework is, they can take all of that time, and they can put it towards planning better lessons or just being like happy and more relaxed teachers who are more fun to be around. So unfortunately, that question added an argument back onto the list. Still, we're getting there. I think we're down to like six.

Really smart, Tony. I'm super glad you're on my team. All right. The next question that I think you should ask yourself is, do any of the arguments on my list kind of clash with each other and not work together? That's obviously going to be a problem. Looking at the list, yeah, I actually do think a couple of the arguments clash. So I really like the argument about how it's unfair for disadvantaged kids to have to do homework, because they might not have support or help. But when you think about it, if I'm going to argue that if kids don't have homework they're going to pursue their own passions, like reading, or playing instruments, or going to dance recitals, or researching on the internet, I mean, I probably can't make that argument about unfairness, right? Because in the argument about pursuing your own passions and education, I'm kind of assuming that everyone is going to be able to go online or come up with their own cool thing to do, and that probably wouldn't be true at the same time as kids not being allowed to access the internet or have helpful parents would be true.

So those two are going to be really, really hard to fit in together, which sucks, because I really love the argument about fairness and equity. Like, I really like it, because that lets me go, don't you care about the poor and disadvantaged kids who don't even have the internet, other team? How dare you? And then they have to try to somehow say, oh, yeah, I don't care about poor people or whatever. So it would be a great argument to make, but it's only about a small group, and it doesn't really fit in with my argument about how kids will be able to, without homework, pursue their own passions and their own education in the afternoon. So unfortunately, yeah, I think I've got to ditch it. All right. It's gone.

The other thing that you want to ask yourself now is like, you should be getting towards a finalised list of arguments. And to have a final list of arguments, what you really need is for all of them to have a number, and for all of them to have an agreed upon perfect half-sentence heading, right? Because that's the thing you're going to say when you do your allocation. That's the thing you're going to say during point, the first step of argument. You're going to say, here is my first argument, which will show that, blah, blah, blah. So it's really important you have a clear list with numbers and with that half-sentence heading.

So here is what I reckon we've narrowed it down to with numbers and clear half-sentence headings that can be our allocation and the stuff we say during the arguments. Cool.

I reckon there's probably a couple more questions worth asking. The next question that I would ask is like, can any of my arguments be split up into like different smaller stakeholder groups to help us explain them? So what we're saying is if you've got an argument about, say, primary school kids, maybe don't make it just about primary school kids. Make it about the smart primary school kids who understand everything and the struggling primary school kids who have trouble understanding everything. By splitting stuff up like that, you can improve your arguments a lot, and it's worth chatting about that now with your team.

Let's have a look. I reckon that first one is obviously about super smart kids who get really bored because they know everything, or like super struggling kids who don't understand it and can't get any help. So that one's obviously kind of split up already. We almost did that when we mushed a bunch of arguments together. I think it's equally true about the arguments about sporty kids, right? So about, like, exercise and training, because there are kids who really love sport and kids who really don't love sport very much. And I think that argument will make more sense if we separate those two groups out. So you'll have arguments about how sporty kids will go and play sport, but the less sporty kids might walk their dogs. Sure, they might read a book, but they'll get a little bit more exercise. So I think splitting up there will be really good team.

The other one where I think it makes sense is in this argument about pursuing your own education and your own extracurricular passions, because the whole point of that is that some kids are musical, some kids are artistic, some kids are really sciencey and nerdy and excellent at that stuff, some kids are dreamers. So it's really good to be able to split up primary school kids into lots of different primary school kids, and having a chat about that now will help flesh out your arguments later.

There's one last question you should ask, and it is super important. There's the question that primary school kids most often forget. It is this. Hey, team, what is the best possible 'right now' in order for us to win? Like, what is the best possible version of what the main thing in the homework looks like right now? How do we want to paint the main thing that's going on right now? Basically in this debate, that's all different ways of saying like, what does our team think homework looks like right now? Because if you can be clear about this early, it will really help your case. Let's do it then.

What should our team say homework looks like? Well, we don't want to admit that it doesn't take very long, because that will screw up a bunch of our arguments, right? I look back at my arguments and I'm like, that's about taking time away from things. So I probably want homework to be not half an hour. I think we could probably get away with saying it's 45 minutes to an hour every night. Yeah, I think we can get away with that, even though it's a bit of a stretch. If we all say it, we can get away with that. If we went too long, if we said two hours or three hours, people would just laugh at us, because they know it's wrong. But I think we can get away with, every time someone asks, saying it's 45 minutes to an hour.

I would also add to that, by the way, whenever I say it that some kids, it takes a little bit longer because it's harder for them. That's really smart. We're going to remember that as well. As far as the last question about what homework looks like right now, it's like what's the best version of homework for us to win the debate. So it's probably not the kind of homework where it's super fun and it's amazing games and researching cool history and all that kind of stuff. If we're going to win this debate, we want homework to look like boring stuff. So that means we want to pretend that it's mostly revision-- stuff like spelling and timetables-- and we want to insist that the rest of it is probably just maths problems, quite difficult maths practice.

So I think that if we remember constantly that on our side of the debate we think that homework is 45 minutes to an hour every night, and sometimes longer for some kids, and that it's mostly revision or difficult maths work, if we can kind of paint that picture early on, then that will help us to make all of our arguments much, much better. So it's great if the affirmative can have a clear, organised picture of what they think right now should look like if they're going to win this debate. Of course, the negative is going to say, homework right now looks like roughly 30 minutes every second night. And for them to win, they probably want it to be full of fun games and researching interesting facts, and almost never timetables. See? So whoever gets started on that clash earlier and sticks to it better will end up winning the debate. That's why it's really good if you can ask yourself that question now. In fact, that question's so important, some teams ask it at the very beginning of their case development. I think it's good to leave it to the end when you're in primary school so you can look back at your arguments and figure out what suits them the best.

Wow, Tony, you're both really good at this and ruggedly handsome. Amazing stuff. There's probably just one last question that I would add before you move on with the rest of your brainstorming and prep and all that stuff, and that is, just make sure you know what the allocation is going to be. So you've got your list of arguments in order. You've got to figure out which ones are going to the first speaker and which ones are going to the second speaker. It goes in order, right? So the first speaker gets the most important arguments, and the second speaker gets the less important arguments. All you've got to figure out is where to draw the line here.

For me, I reckon that first argument about frustration is so big and so involved that I'm going to say the first affirmative only gets the top two arguments, and then it's the job of the negative-- sorry, the second affirmative to do the next three arguments, right? If we lose that last argument about teachers, I'm not going to be too worried anyway if second runs out of time. And I guess later when we practice our speeches before we go into the debate, if it turns out the first affirmative keeps running short, we can reshuffle things, and we can give them a third argument then. But for now arguments one and two belong to the first speaker, arguments three through five belong to the second speaker. And hey, that's the end of 25 minutes of case development. It went super quick. I promise you, it always will.

The next thing you need to do is a 15-minute chunk where you're going to actually write your speeches. First of all, don't write all of your speeches. So you can't fit every word that you're going to say onto a palm card. That would take ages, OK? So don't write full sentences. Don't write down absolutely everything you want to say. Here's a look at what my allocation palm card might look like. Yeah. And here's a look at the palm card for I think one of my simplest arguments about sport, because I think I can fit that on one palm card.

Notice, by the way, how on every palm card I've decided to scribble down that thing that I want to remember the whole time. Homework is 45 minutes to an hour of revision and maths. Right? Because that's going to remind me that I want to say that lots and insist that that's true. You might, even if your fourth speaker has nothing to do, have them just go away and write that on a bunch of palm cards. That's useful if they're kind of annoying.

As you're writing, the third speaker and the fourth speaker can pair up with the first speaker and the second speaker and help them out, right? They can give them suggestions about what to write in their arguments, remind them what to add. That's honestly going to get a little bit frustrating and annoying after a little while. So the other thing the third and fourth speakers can do-- because they don't really have anything to write-- they can get together and think about what the other team is going to say in the debate and how they might come up with rebuttal to that stuff. It's super important they don't write any of that stuff down. If you write down a rebuttal before the other team says it, you often end up saying really silly things and rebutting stuff that never actually happened in the debate. But having a chat during these 15 minutes is a totally great idea. So the third and the fourth could get together and do that.

The other thing that they could do towards the end of this 15 minutes is it'd be great if they could go off with the first or the second speaker and actually like watch them give their speech. They can't, like, leave the room, but they could go to a corner of the room, and they could watch the speech, maybe give them tips, if it's too short, if it's too long, what to add, what to take out. So that's what the third and the fourth speaker are going to be doing, right? So 15 minutes to write your speech, practice it, and for the third and fourth to maybe get together and chat about what some rebuttals might be. Cool?

That just leaves five minutes in your hour. This is like the final five minutes where I want you all as a team to like come back together, ask any questions. So maybe as you were writing your speech, you were like, oh, I asked the third speaker this, but they didn't really explain it to me. Team, can you remind me how this works? So you can ask questions. You can chat maybe about what they came up with in rebuttal. Honestly, if everyone's ready to go, you could just use this time to make sure your palm cards are in order and maybe chat, cheer yourself on, talk about how much you hate the other team and about how you're going to crush them, and obviously line up and go to the bathroom, because, you know, it's been an hour. You probably need to.

Finally, if there's any sugar left in that room-- not like fruit, right, but actual real good sugar-- make sure you eat it now so that you're hyped up and ready to go. Don't leave any chocolate or jelly snakes lying around the room. Teachers will sneak in and eat that stuff on you. So hype yourself up with lots of sugar at this moment, and that's kind of it. You know how to do a one-hour prep.

Very quickly, then, what's a one-hour prep look like? Well, in summary, spend five minutes brainstorming. Then spend the next five minutes downloading that brainstorm. Then spend 25 minutes organising your case as a group. That means sorting your case by kind of matching your brainstorm ideas together, ranking the arguments you come up with, asking yourself do I have too many arguments or too few arguments, then asking yourself have you forgotten any of the key stakeholders in the debate.

Next, asking yourself if there are any clashes in between your arguments that you need to worry about. Next, figuring out what order you're going to put everything in, and making sure the half-sentence headings are written and ready to go. Next, a discussion about whether you can break up the stakeholder groups in those arguments. Remember, not just primary school kids, but together, smart primary school kids, struggling, not really liking school primary school kids. Then, maybe the most important one, ask yourself, what does right now need to look like for me to have the best possible chance to win this debate? And of course, finally, decide on the allocation on which speaker is getting which argument. Once that's done, you've got the 15-minute chunk to write your speech, and then a five minute chunk to get back together, panic, hype yourself up, and maybe go to the bathroom.

OK? That's kind of everything I can think of when it comes to prepping a speech together or a case together in one hour with a bunch of scared primary school kids. Hope that was kind of helpful. I promise the more you do it, the easier and funner it gets. So definitely stick with debating, which hopefully we can get back to pretty soon now that you guys are back at school. Thanks for listening, guys. Hope it was helpful.

End of transcript