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The Socratic Club - 20th February

After a recap on key skills from this term, with a particular focus on summary speaking and making comparison/links with other points made during a debate, we turned to two topics: one more philosophical and one from the news headlines.

Junior Socratic Club

A classic motion, but inspired by discussions of cancel culture, social media and in age of 'fake news' we looked at freedom of speech and whether there should be limits:

'This House thinks that freedom of speech should not be limited'.

Vote 1 – Y: 25%; N: 75%

Vote 2 – Y: 40%; N: 60%

The topic so engrossed our group that we had little time for our second motion - it inspired strong argumentation and at times a sense of pride that we are lucky in the UK to be able to debate and speak so openly. Authoritarian states and dictatorships from the Nazis or the times of Stalin to North Korea were used as examples. In the end, particularly with social media and the complexities of anonymity, it was felt that some things cannot be said, not least inciting hate and so there should be restrictions, but as minimal as possible. It was also pointed out that freedom of speech has evolved, there was a time when the suffragettes had to fight for a voice for women even though 'freedom of speech' was felt to exist - so these boundaries need to be considered and reevaluated with each new generation. Overall a superb debate!

We then followed this discussion by addressing the question of funding for TFL, and the current crisis for the Mayor of London, with the motion:

'This House believes London Public Transport should be more expensive'.

Vote 1 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

Vote 2 – Y: 0%; N: 100%

Although the group saw the need for taxation and increased spending to fill a gap left by covid, it was overwhelmingly pointed out that TFL is already one of the most expensive services in the world, and that this would unfairly hit the elderly and those less fortunate. Clearly the Mayor has much to do to persuade people of the need/or necessity of increasing costs. By the second telling the motion was entirely rejected.

Senior Socratic Club

As with the Junior group, our focus began with the classic discussion on Freedom of Speech, with the Motion,

'This House thinks that freedom of speech should not be limited'.

Vote 1 – Y: 17%; N: 83%

Vote 2 – Y: 0%; N: 100%

By contrast with the Junior group, the Senior group had even less time for a totally unlimited sense of freedom of speech. At the second telling it was unanimously held that there should be restrictions - from inciting hate, to concerns over fake news and propaganda. To enjoy freedom of speech it was felt that some limitations were necessary as a guarantee. What was so impressive was the way the group engaged with both sides and particularly those that argued for the motion with such conviction whilst holding entirely different views. Well done!

We then proceeded with the current affairs question on tax rises/increasing costs for TFL:

'This House believes London Public Transport should be more expensive'.

Vote 1 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

Vote 2 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

As with the Junior Group, there was a general feeling of negativity towards further tax rises and increasing costs for TFL. A subsidized service such as those in Moscow and the cheaper service of New York were used as examples of how further costs in London would be out of step with other major global cities, at the same time it was also recognized that this is a vital service in need of funding post covid. In the end a 'tax/money' debate ensued and we will build on these key debating topics/themes in our next session.

We were particularly pleased to see so many of the group referring to other speakers and points made today. Well done all!

Greatly looking forward to our next session!

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