Video transcript
Stop rebutting yourself – primary debating – 03. With Charlie Witherdin

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[music playing]

TONY DAVEY: OK, Hey, Charlie, How's it going over there?

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Hey, Tony. Good, good, very good.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, it's good to see you. So, this is Charlie. Some of you might recognise him, or your teachers might.

After finishing law, he gave up like a year of his life to travel around New South Wales to every corner of the state and teach debating to primary school kids. So, yeah, what are you up to now, Charlie? Tell us a bit about you and your debating.

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Yeah, so I was super into debating from about Year 4. And the video we're going to see today is me in Year 6. But Years 5 and 6, I was really into debating, representing my school and also the New England because I'm from that region. Year 7 and 8, we won the Premiers Debating Challenge, which was really exciting, kept debating right through up to Year 10 when we were in the final. Didn't win, but came runner up.

And yeah, and look, since then, when I went to uni, I've done a tonne of adjudicating debates, which has been really fun. And as you said, I've done a whole bunch of travelling around the state, teaching kids to debate, adjudicating debates. And even now, so now I work for a company that's helping out with the response to the health care stuff at the moment.

Yeah, but even now, before that happened, I was taking days off here and there to go adjudicate because it's a really fun activity. And it's fun to give kids feedback.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, I recall. That's right. Of course, we saw you up on the north coast just before everything shut down.

So, what we're going to do now is watch, like you said, that speech from the 2006 final. You're the very first affirmative speaker. And then you're going to give some feedback to your former self. And then finally rebut your former self.

One last thing about that debate, the topic of that debate is that films are making books obsolete. That's a really, really old topic. We probably wouldn't set it like that anymore.

We put the word should in there, and it would be like some version of that we should fund films instead of books or that schools should teach more movies and less books. But I think you'll still get the idea of what debating was like back then and how good rebuttal will look. OK, so you ready to go, Charlie?


TONY DAVEY: All right, here we go then.


CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Movies appeal to the new generation, thus making books obsolete. We have defined films as movies, such as you watch in a cinema. For odvious we're excluding documentaries.

We define books, being, making books obsolete as causing books to become useless. And we define books as fictional or faction based novels. Today, I'll be talking to you about how movies, about movies appeal and how movies are going to become obsolete.

My second speaker will talk about different ways movies will become obsolete, then the new generation and the standards of entertainment. Today to win this debate, we need to prove to you that films are causing books to become obsolete. By odvious we mean the majority of people who would rather watch or buy film than read or buy book.

My first issue today is appeal. Now, there is a much greater appeal for movies than books. Why? Because with a book, you have to sit there.

You have to actually use energy and read with your eyes. You have to paint a picture mentally in your head. Whereas with a movie, you can simply sit down in the comfortable chair, have your heart rate go slower than it would when you sleep, and just simply have everything done and shown in front of your eyes. There's no thinking involved. And this relates back to the topic because people would rather watch a movie than spend, say, two months reading a book. An example of this was the 'Harry Potter' book.

Now, a lot of children would of thought when this came out, why spend months reading this book when we could just spend two to two and half hours reading the book? So, of course, the children just went and watched the movie instead. And this was making books more obsolete by excluding the book by rather taking the movie.

My second point is books being turned into films. My example of this is the 'Lord of the Rings.' Now, these were a trilogy of three novels. They were great. But of course, people were lazy and did not want to read them.

They said, the companies just decided, hey, we could make some money out of this. So, they turned them into movies so children would prefer, and adults, to watch them than read the actual books. And I know what you're probably all thinking, and the author loses money. Therefore, he thinks, hey, why am I writing books?

Why didn't I just give up on it, and go to a normal job? I'm not making any money. And I know what you're all probably thinking. He'd get a huge royalty cheque for this movie.

But, say he got a $200,000 royalty cheque, they made over 300 million dollars with that movie. So therefore, the author would stop writing and just begin a normal job. Therefore, excluding more and more offers. This would make books go on the road to becoming obsolete, in other words, extinct and people just wanting to watch more movies. Movies appeal to the new generation, thus making books obsolete.


TONY DAVEY: Fantastic. A truly excellent and adorable speech, Charlie. Actually there's a lot of super smart stuff in there, as well as the weirdness. So, if you were an adjudicator, what kind of feedback would you give to the old you if you could?

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Yeah, so, thanks, Tony. So, I think I actually had some really good points back then as a 12-year-old. But I think I made a mistake that a lot of primary school kids make in debating, and that's been about really clear from at the start of every argument, exactly what you're talking about so that everyone in the audience and the adjudicator and the other team can be like, oh, I totally know what this is about.

So, an example was I said, in my second argument, that books are being turned into films, which doesn't really tell the audience what I'm going to say. So, it would make a lot more sense if you turned that into my second argument is that books are being turned into films. And this means that books are becoming less relevant as kids more and more just watch films instead. So, just make it really clear what I'm talking about.

And the other thing I'd say that I gave some good examples in there, for example, saying 'Harry Potter' made 300 million dollars in ticket sales. But I also used a lot of hypothetical or imaginary examples. So for example, I'd say, imagine what kids would think when they'd have to sit there and read this book and it takes so long.

It's much more powerful examples if you can sort of give clear hard numbers that aren't telling someone an imaginary story. So, it'd be more powerful to say, we know that a 'Harry Potter' book takes at least 10 weeks to read for the average kid. They're quite long.

They're around 500 pages. Whereas a 'Harry Potter' movie, goes for about two hours. So, you can see that there's a really clear difference in terms of how much time it takes a kid to look at one instead of the other and why one would be more appealing, being a movie, and make books obsolete. So, I think that'd be the two key pieces of feedback. Make it really clear what my arguments are and have clear examples that don't say imagine, start with the word imagine.

TONY DAVEY: Fantastic, yeah. I think that is smashing, smashing feedback to your former self. It's a pitty you can't listen and get even better. Like you said, you did go in to win the next two state titles. So, that's pretty good. All right, so are you now ready to maybe rebut your former self and join the winning team, the negative this time?

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: That sounds great.

TONY DAVEY: All right, OK, here we go then. Please welcome the first speaker of the negative, also Charlie, to open the case for the negative. Woo, Charlie, yay!

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: So, the first point that my younger self made was that films are more relaxing, and as a result, they're going to make books obsolete. I have two reasons why this is wrong. Firstly, I think it's untrue that books aren't relaxing.

I think that a lot of people lie in bed and read a book before they go to bed at night because it actually helps them relax, helps them get to sleep, unlike staring at a screen of bright lights, which can actually be quite stimulating. And the second reason why I think films are also really relaxing is that it is relaxing to use your mind. And we can look at other activities like crosswords or sudokus, where people's brains are actively working. But they find that that's relaxing and engaging in that way is really relaxing, instead of just looking at a TV where you don't have to think at all.

So, I actually completely reject the idea that films are more relaxing than books. The second bit of rebuttal I'd like to take is my point that films take less time than books and are therefore more appealing. We have two reasons why this is wrong.

Firstly, they're very different experiences. And it's not like when you read a book, you have to do it all at once. You can read a book for an hour a day, and similarly, you can watch a movie or a TV show for an hour a day. So, it's not actually taking you more time. It's just time more spread out.

So, I think that they're very different experiences. And one isn't necessarily going to interrupt your life day to day more than the other. And the second point I'd make is that even if films do take up less time in your life than a book, I think that films so much, books offer so much more for kids.

You get to imagine things. You get rich descriptions in the language. They make you better at writing and at literacy, which helps you at school. So, even if it was the case that films were a shorter experience and books took longer, I think that's definitely worth it.

TONY DAVEY: Fantastic, yeah, I thought that was pretty cruel. Congratulations, Charlie, you broke your former self.

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: I shot 12-year-old me down. [laughs]

TONY DAVEY: Thanks for that. That was brilliant. So, you can go back to being safe and helping out with the COVID-19 response. And hopefully we'll see you back on the road at some point soon coaching some people in far north New South Wales.

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Yeah, fingers crossed.

TONY DAVEY: All right, thanks for rebutting yourself, Charlie.

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: Thanks so much, Tony.

TONY DAVEY: We'll see you around.

CHARLIE WITHERDIN: All right, thank you.

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