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The Socratic Club - 6th March

Our sessions began with a focus on how to find suitable evidence, how to process information and what to be aware of in a world of ‘fake news’. Both groups analysed different sources, looked at corrections pages for The Times, discussed the merits of the best websites for news information and learnt that much of this is nothing new. Evidence has always and will always contain an angle or bias, from the Bayeux Tapestry of the medieval world to the 6 o’clock news of the present.

Our topics for the day were both from the world of current affairs in these tragic and uncertain times. The first on nuclear weapons, the second on the plight of refugees.

Junior Socratic Club

We began with a nuclear disarmament debate on the motion:

'This House would stop Britain from having nuclear weapons (Trident)’.

Vote 1 – Y: 17%; N: 83%

Vote 2 – Y: 33%; N: 67%

We started by covering some of the background to the Cuban Missile Crisis - a worryingly contextual topic for the present. Few debates have so engrossed the group, and in the first telling, a strong majority saw Britain’s nuclear deterrent as an essential weapon of defence and of importance on the world stage. It was widely felt that to remove it would be to limit British influence and weaken NATO. At the same time all saw fit to make the point that non-proliferation was essential to the world. However, that was seen as a hope and aspiration. Arguments of a better world saw the majority/margin fall slightly, but the motion failed again to pass at the second telling.

We then followed this debate by a brief discussion on the Ukraine refugee crisis and whether Britain should do more. The motion:

'This House believes Britain should take more refugees'.

Vote 1 – Y: 67%; N: 33%

There was not time for a full debate, and we will continue this next session, but the majority felt more should be done to take more refugees in the UK. It was, nevertheless, recognised that it was not as simple as just letting someone have access to the country and proper provision must be made so that those that need help receive the right housing, healthcare and education on arrival and for the duration of the time required. Time and again the group came back to the need for proper planning. Excellent debating by all.

Senior Socratic Club

As with the Junior group, our focus for the Senior Club followed nuclear non-proliferation and the historical background of the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as beginning to look at the topic of refugees and what should be done by Britain.

'This House would stop Britain from having nuclear weapons (Trident)’.

Vote 1 – Y: 60%; N: 40%

Vote 2 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

By contrast with the Junior group, the Senior group began with a majority vote in favour of the removal of Britain's nuclear power/capabilities. However, at the second telling this was overturned dramatically, with a full swing rejection of the motion. It was wonderful to see 'Active Listening' playing a key role in changing minds and the debating quality and argumentation throughout was first class. Ultimately, it was expressed that although in a perfect world there would be no place for nuclear weapons, both during the Cold War and now in the current climate, they were a necessary evil and if we didn't have them, then others would. In summary, nuclear weapons (Trident) it was said, gave Britain: power, influence and defensive capabilities to project our values across the world. The rule of law was emphasised too. Wonderful debating all round!

We then began a brief discussion of the humanitarian disaster/crisis for Ukrainian refugees:

'This House believes Britain should take more refugees'.

Vote 1 – Y: 100%; N: 0%

There was not time for a full debate, but the group was unanimous in calling for the Government to do more, whilst also recognising the need to plan and to provide adequate resources. We will tackle this question in more detail next time.

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