Youth Speaks – 12 November 2019

Kyle Academy hosted this year’s Rotary-sponsored Youth Speaks competition. This year saw the introduction of a new debate format. Three teams were entered: Ayr Academy (youngest ever entrants in the senior category), and Carrick Academy along with Kyle Academy (in the intermediate category). The formidable judging panel comprised two former teachers, Eileen Haddow and Paul Williams,  along with Tom Raffel, well-known local Burnsian and public speaker.

First up was Kyle Academy debating the motion “Prince Harry – Friend or Foe?”. Beth Paterson introduced the two debaters and set the scene with her allusion to the Royal couple’s use of jet travel whilst Harry claimed to have a deep personal interest in frontline conservation of both wildlife and human communities. Murray Graham spoke in a highly confident and amusing manner on behalf of the prince as a “friend” citing, amongst other things, his “noble military deeds” and claiming that Harry was “a living legend” who wanted only to make his mother proud. Julie Dunn saw things differently and asked where was the heroism in travelling in personal comfort at the expense of the environment. She asked “is Harry special?” and answered her own question with “No – he can’t be king of a dead planet”. Discussion afterwards centred on whether or not Meghan Markle was an upsetting influence in these matters.

Carrick Academy were next to take the floor and Ciava Campbell explained that the debaters would contest the question: “Should schooling be more flexible?”. Sophie Valdrighi arguing for the motion insisted that pupils would attain better results if they were permitted more individual control over their daily curriculums. She considered that over-emphasis on timekeeping, multiple exams in a short space of time, and heavy workloads all contribute to poor attainment levels. Why couldn’t pupils select and deselect subjects of their own choosing; and why were RE and PE compulsory subjects? She believed there was an urgent need for change. Zoe Murray put up a stout defence for the status quo and claimed that correctly imposed discipline was essential to instilling the necessary attributes for a caring, educated, adult society. Questioners wondered whether greater pupil control might result in school anarchy.

The final team was Ayr Academy and chair Scott Morton outlined the contested subject “A second Referendum?” meaning Indyref 2. Calum Boyle then made an excellent presentation explaining that the political climate had changed considerably since the 2014 referendum and that it was democratically wrong that Westminster could dictate the right of the Scottish people to hold another. Contentiously he claimed that the union was “an albatross round Scotland’s neck” and urged the audience to vote “Yes” in the next referendum. Arka Lewandowski speaking against the motion reckoned that the cost to the country of another referendum was unacceptable and that Scots were weary of referendums. The current political system had evolved since the Act of Union and had resulted in a stable, prosperous country – why upset the apple cart?

After a period of deliberation, Paul Williams, speaking for the judges, complimented all three teams on their bravery in stepping out of their comfort zones before providing some helpful suggestions on the art of public speaking. He confirmed that Ayr Rotary Club would be sponsoring the winners, Kyle Academy, in the District Final competition and that Alloway Rotary Club would be sponsoring Carrick Academy.