L to r: The Churchill's team - Rory Fraser, Theo Simmons and Sonny Ko; Radbrook Captain Ralph Wade receiving the Senior Debating Trophy from the Headmaster; the Radbrook team - Stephen Chandler, Ralph Wade and Sasha Arridge
The motion for the evening was “This house would rather go to Summerhill School” - A.S. Neil’s brainchild of a democratic and totally libertarian school.
The debate got off to a fiery start. Chaired by two Severnhillians, Mark Huang and Dan Edwards, who had fallen from the competition the round before, Sonny Koh opened the proposition for Churchill’s. Sonny was passionate, putting forward a strong and defiant argument as to why academic freedom is vital for self-motivation and success in life. He was followed by the astute and sharp Stephen Chandler for the opposition, whose hounding analysis of the inability for a child to make his or her own decisions so young left everyone thinking.
After this it was the turn of the enigmatic Theo Simmons, whose comforting and, as the Headmaster later described, “highly trustable” style brought a new dimension to the debate, introducing ideas about how democracy in schools is the best reflection of society. He was followed by Sasha Arridge from Radbrook, whose humorous yet enlightening speech told the audience why Radbrook were in the right simply down to a child’s reaction to eating a marshmallow.
To close the debate for Churchill’s was Rory Fraser, who was taking the historically unique position of being Head of School attacking the school he is head of! Nevertheless his speech was fluid, engaging and brought the debate closer than ever. Finally, the audience were treated to the rhetorical power of Ralph Wade. His speech, which attacked the very concept and impracticality of absolute democracy, certainly had everyone in the room avidly listening.
After this, the audience had their chance to get in on the action. An array of stellar questions were asked. One question by a Mr Allott junior dared to challenge the authority of all the staff sitting in the room. A brave move indeed. Finally, after all the questions were complete, we had two brilliant summary speeches given by Ralph then Sonny respectively. And then the Judgement. The debate was strong on both sides, but eventually, the committee of judges decided the nays had it, thereby meaning that Radbrook had won. Regardless of the result, it was a great evening for all those present.
But that’s not the whole story on Shrewsbury debaters. A few weeks earlier on the 20th November, four Salopians, Ralph Wade, Sonny Koh, Dan Edwards and Guy Cabral, travelled to Adams Grammar School to take part in the first round of the national Cambridge Union Debating Competition. Debating in British parliamentary style, Ralph and Guy paired up as team and Sonny and Dan paired up as another team. We had two motions – one prepared, (this house would give housewives a salary) and one unseen (this house would ban the right to strike in all essential services).
The debate was tough. Each team present was well researched, experienced and had good style. Indeed Guy and Ralph were unlucky to just miss getting through to the next round. Dan and Sonny, however, after an intense final debate managed to win their group and qualify for the next round. By the end of the night both teams returned in good spirits to school, loaded up of course after eating fine quality pizza!
With thanks to Andrew Spicer (M VI) for taking the photographs