Junior Socratic Club
The second meeting of the new academic year saw us focus on key skills:
- Active Listening
- Evidence based argumentation &
- What makes a good source/site for information
Having reviewed these skills, we turned to two significant topics inspired or linked to current affairs:
(i) The recent climate change protests on the M25 on the issue of insulating Britain raised the ethical question of whether it might be permissible to break the law in order to achieve a greater long term good?
The Motion: 'This House thinks it is ok to break the law in order to raise awareness and deal with climate change?'
Vote 1 - Y: 75%; N: 25%
Vote 2 - Y: 25%; N: 75%
This was a fascinating debate including comparisons made with the fight of the Suffragettes to attain the vote and universal suffrage for women. Many in the group felt at the outset of our discussions that it would be permissible on utilitarian grounds if such actions served a greater good for the planet. The inconvenience caused by a minor illegal offence was as nothing to the battle to save the planet. However, as the debate moved on, that same approach was seen as risking a domino impact on the legal framework of the land. At one basic level if one can disregard one law, then why not others, and in turn, how does one frame a society around such a system? What of the fabric of society then? It was also widely argued that awareness was not required, the view being that one would have to have been living under a rock to not be aware of the topic of climate change. So, therefore, the impact here was not a question of awareness, but one of tackling climate change, in terms of actions. Others also pointed out the damage caused to the planet by the congestion created on the M25, arguing that this was somewhat self-defeating and such protests would be better held in Parliament square. In the end the motion was rejected at the second 'telling'.
(ii) With the new Government/NHS guidelines out for vaccines for children 12+, we turned next to a debate about choice:
The Motion, 'This House believes children should have a choice over whether to have a Covid vaccine rather than their parents'.
Vote 1 - Y: 50%; N: 50%
Vote 2 - Y: 50%; N: 50%
The group began equally divided and remained so throughout the debate. Many felt that they did not have the experience to make such decisions, whilst others felt that parents themselves did not have the experience because the vaccine had only been around for a short period of time and children were equally well informed on this topic. Others sought a more nuanced approach - hoping to have a joint decision, in which they were consulted, but that parents had the decisive vote. In the past we have discussed voting age and the sentience of children, and on the back of this discussion, it would have been fascinating to see what age this group would set for the right to vote. Very impressive!
Senior Socratic Club
The senior session continued the theme of focussing on source analysis and evidence based argumentation. We also covered the differences between news reports and opinion pieces, along with different newspaper styles.
As with the junior group, we moved to discuss the M25 protests and whether illegal protest could be justified:
(i) The Motion: 'This House believes that it is ok to break the law in order to raise awareness and deal with climate change?'
Vote 1 - Yes: 67%; No: 33%
Vote 2 - Yes: 67%; No: 33%
Historical comparisons of legal and illegal protests were mentioned - from Gandhi to the Suffragettes (as with the Junior Club) - and it was marvellous to see the examples given. Unlike the earlier session, the Senior Group retained a majority in favour of illegal protest, rallying around the key point, that laws were irrelevant if we had no planet. Climate change was seen as so important, that an exception could be made in this case. Many also hoped that President Biden and the recent trip of Boris Johnson to the UN/USA would bring real change, but that in the absence of practical action, it was permissible for the public to attempt to make a difference and force Politicians to take note.
We then moved to the question of vaccines for children.
(ii) The Motion, 'This House believes children should have a choice over whether to have a Covid vaccine rather than their parents'.
Vote 1 - Y: 33%; N: 67%
Vote 2 - Y: 67%; N: 33%
In contrast to the Junior session, the Senior group shifted decisively from a majority against children having a choice, to a majority in favour. Whether this was because the children involved were directly impacted by the new guidance on vaccines was difficult to judge/say, but this was on any view a most high-powered debate. All sought a nuanced strategy that had the opinions of parents and children taken into account. We ended with the further ethical dilemma/question of whether parents or the government should have the greater say on issues relating to children? Another great topic for later in the term!