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The Socratic Club - 7th February

This week we turned our attention to key skills for public speaking: with the group focussing on voice intonation to conclusions and practice.

We then turned our attention towards one philosophical topic and one of current affairs:

Junior Socratic Club

Universities, and government spend a great deal of time justifying subjects these days on the basis of financial return: how many students apply, and the long-term benefit of the subject. We decided therefore to ask whether Science matters more than Art, with the Motion:

'This House thinks that Science is more important than Art'.

Vote 1 – Y: 60%; N: 40%

Vote 2 – Y: 80%; N: 20%

This was a very interesting debate, looking at the merits of subjects and what actually constitutes art: whether language or history or other skills. In the end, the benefits of health from science, whether that be covid vaccines or wider medicine trumped what the group saw as the benefits of art. Einstein was seen as more important than the creations of Salvador Dali for instance. A strongly spoken minority sought to place much emphasis on the longer term significance of art, from architecture, to culture and the wider human experience. This was coupled with an interest in the role of the 'Monuments Men' in WWII and preserving, protecting and returning art following the Nazi occupation of Europe. It was great to tackle a more philosophical question with our students.

We then followed this discussion by addressing the question of the proposed rise in National Insurance and increasing taxes, with the motion:

'This House believes that taxes should rise'.

Vote 1 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

Vote 2 – Y: 40%; N: 60%

Although the group saw the need for taxation in general and particularly to sort out gaps and delays in the NHS, the general feel was that taxes were already high and any rise would be potentially damaging to economic recovery of the State. We ended the session by turning our attention to how taxes were distributed across the economy. At the second telling there was a small swing towards the motion, but it was still, nevertheless, rejected.

Senior Socratic Club

As with the Junior group, our focus began with the philosophical question of Science vs Art, with the Motion,

'This House thinks that Science is more important than Art'.

Vote 1 – Y: 100%; N: 0%

Vote 2 – Y: 100%; N: 0%

By contrast with the Junior group, the Senior group was unanimous in both tellings that Science was more important than Art. The same reasons were given, including the perspective that Science through medicine had dramatically increased life expectancy. Art was enjoyed because of Science. This was a very useful debate to teach an opposition how to challenge and unpick a motion. We will be building further on this skill in the coming weeks. The most interesting element of the debate followed a discussion of whether history was art and how dangerous regimes had always sought to remove history. Nevertheless, despite the best efforts of the opposition, the proposition's voice carried.

We then proceeded with the current affairs question of tax rises:

'This House thinks that taxes should go up'.

Vote 1 – Y: 20%; N: 80%

Vote 2 – Y: 50%; N: 50%

As with the Junior Group, there was a general feeling of negativity towards further tax rises and concern as to how the money would be spent. Gaps, shortages and problems in the NHS were all recognised, but the group felt the economy was too finely balanced to disrupt and damage with tax rises. Nevertheless, a strong opposition pointing to the need for more money across different sectors of the economy saw a dramatic move in the second telling and the motion was split 50/50.

As ever we were hugely impressed with contributions throughout the sessions and the sophisticated way in which speakers are considering their arguments and also finding evidence to support their points.

We greatly look forward to the next session!

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