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Debating at Wycombe Abbey

Debating at Wycombe Abbey

Fifteen Eton debaters travelled to Wycombe Abbey to take part in a joint debating fixture. The girls were so enthralled by debating against Etonians that they insisted we debate with them over supper. We were subjected to the motions ‘Should Eton allow boys?’ along with the timeless classic ‘Women are better than men’ ad nauseam.

On to the debating chamber and, as a warm-up, we had an impromptu debate over the motion ‘Religion has no place in schools’, with mixed teams. We heard that religion divided and unified people, that it taught invaluable morals, taught us to understand other cultures, that we already hear enough about world affairs on the news and it should be up to parents to teach their children these lessons. After some points from the floor, a summary from the opposition and proposition and quick vote, the motion was defeated.

The main debate was on the motion ‘This house believes that terminally ill prisoners should be released’, with Eton proposing. The proposition  defined ‘terminally ill’ as ‘dead in six months’, and appealed to our morals, sense of dignity, the issue of overcrowding in prisons that leads to bad smell and even coined the chant ‘Rise above it!’ It further argued that the judicial system as a whole was not efficient, that sentences should be changed under special circumstances, and that we should not let our vengeful sides get the better of us, quoting Mahatma Gandhi: 'An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.' The opposition argued that we should uphold the sentences given to these prisoners and that there is a sizeable probability that these prisoners would reoffend if released on compassionate grounds.  It went to argue that we were all terminally ill, that it is impossible to predict how long someone will live and that prisoners who are dying are still allowed to have a dignified death with their family around them, albeit under armed guard.

The debate was then opened to points from the floor. We heard that releases should depend on the severity of the crime and that it would be unfair to treat a mass murderer in the same way as a petty thief. That if Osama bin Laden was captured and then found to have a brain tumour, should he be released?

The opposition summed up by saying that sentences should be respected, criminals should realise the possibility that they might die in prison when committing the crime and argued that criminals, even under house arrest, can still have huge influences on their followers. The proposition had the last word, making a passionate appeal to our consciences. After a quick vote the motion was upheld.

Many thanks to Wycombe Abbey for hosting the event, and to HAS and DJF for accompanying us there.

Henry Wingfield (JDN)

 

DATE POSTED: 29 November 2009

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