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The Friday Interview: Dr Giles Whiteley

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(Image: Dr Whiteley: 'Debating is a real passion of mine')

IEG Latest News talks to Dr Giles Whiteley about the success of the recent inter-house Debating Competition which captivated teachers and students at Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet last week.

IEG Latest News: The Inter-House Debate generated a lot of positive reactions in the school. How do you think it went?

Dr Whiteley: I thought it went really well. Debating is a real passion of mine and I was happy to see so many students getting so involved with the whole process. What was really pleasing, however, wasn't just the enthusiasm from those students competing, but the general buzz that was felt all around the school. It was great to see so many turn out to support their Houses.

IEG Latest News: How important is it for students to take part in a competition like this?

Dr Whiteley: This kind of competition is great for the students involved. It teaches them not only public speaking, but argument analysis skills and teamwork.

IEG Latest News: What do students learn by doing something like an Inter-House Debate?

Dr Whiteley: The important thing to remember is that the students don't get to pick their sides. They're given a position, either the Proposition or the Opposition, and then they just have to make it work for them. This is why it teaches critical thinking, since it forces the students to analyze both sides of an argument. Its great seeing such passion from kids when you know that they're arguing just for the sense of competition.

IEG Latest News: As a native-English speaker, how do you think the students performed in English under such pressure?

Dr Whiteley: Of course, they weren't perfect, but, then again, neither are native speakers under pressure. Pressure can do strange things to our command of language! In the main, I feel they did very well. Simon Kendall (King) and Jasmine Lund (Russell), in particular, delivered with real style.

IEG Latest News: Why were Russell chosen as winners? What did they have that the others didn't?

Dr Whiteley: Russell were the winners of the debate because, for all Curie's technical skill (there's no question, for instance, who won the battle of the points-of-order), they never took Russell on their ground and won. What I mean by this is that Russell, as the Proposition, get to define the terms of the debate, definitions that the Opposition may criticize, but cannot completely ignore. In the final, Curie rightly criticized Russell's position on the grounds of its naivety, but never really got to the heart of their argument. To say that Russell's position was naïve was not enough - they needed to show that the Proposition's statement was untenable, that it couldn't or wouldn't work.

IEG Latest News: Can we expect another debate competition next year?

Dr Whiteley: Absolutely! I have had a great-deal of positivity from the students, and I am going to put on a debate club, time permitting, next semester.

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