Video transcript
Stop rebutting yourself – primary debating – 06. With Toby Hemmings

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[music playing]

TONY DAVEY: Hey, Toby. How's it going?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Hi, Tony. Yes, it's going well, thanks.

TONY DAVEY: Sure. Do you want to quickly tell us who you are and your debating stuff that you did when you were a kid, and I suppose what you're up to. What are you up to now?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Sure. So when I was a kid, I grew up in a country high school, I did debating for a really long time. I made a bunch of regional teams, state stuff, and then when I left high school, I continued with debating and became an adjudicator. We've gone on tonnes of trips around the regions, teaching people how to adjudicate better than I did back in high school and primary school. And right now I'm writing legal research for a policy institute attached to Western Sydney University.

TONY DAVEY: Exciting fun. Good times. Alright, so we're going to go way back to the beginning now and watch one of your very first performances. Well, obviously there are a few lead-up ones, because this is the final of the 2006 Primary School State Debating Championships. I think you speak third affirmative, weirdly enough, on a team where we've already watched the first affirmative in one of these. Charlie's already had a go at this.

So the topic is, I think it's that, Films Are Making Books Obsolete. Again, I think I mentioned last time, it's not a topic we'd set nowadays, but I think there's still a lot we can get out of it. So are you ready to watch yourself then maybe give yourself a bit of feedback and finally crush your former self?

TOBY HEMMINGS: It would be an honour to get some vicarious trauma in these times. Excellent.

TONY DAVEY: Fantastic. Alright, let's get into it.

[cheering]

YOUNG TOBY HEMMINGS: Movies appeal to the new generation, thus making books obsolete. They said books can be read and reread, but you can watch and rewatch the movie on DVD again and again. They said that reading a book doesn't take much effort, but reading a book requires concentration and imagination. Although with a movie, you just sit down and enjoy.

Members of the audience, the negative statement is that films are OK, but they will never replace books. This is not true. Films are better than OK. They are great in entertaining, with amazing graphics. But what do books have? Writing on pages. Mmmm, interesting.

Second negative said, we've survived with books, but that was before there were movies. Nowadays we survive better with movies. They said we have not proved why movies are more popular, but we have told you many statistics, such as 'Shrek' grossing over a million dollars on its first weekend.

The second negative said, who would bother taking on a book? Exactly the same people who would bother pirating a film. The second negative, people enjoy movies thanks to high-quality animation and effects.

The second negative said, 'Harry Potter' books were best-- one of the best selling titles, but more people watched the movie than read the book.

As our first speaker has already stated, books stimulate the mind and require concentration and focus, whereas movies require nothing, just sitting down in front of the TV. It's easy.

He also pointed out that you can read a book for two months and still not finish, whereas a movie just takes two hours, and you can rewatch it again and again and again. He also pointed out with more people watching movies, less people bother reading a book.

He finally pointed out that books are on the road to being useless, except for maybe throwing them at people.

[laughter]

Our second speaker said, that movies are more popular than books because of the digital effects and the animation. He also said, there is a new standard of entertainment in this Millennium.

He also said 'Harry Potter' movies are more popular than the books. He finally pointed out that people will wait for the movie and not read books, meaning a loss of authors, which also equals in the extinction of books, basically.

Today we have clearly proven to you that we are correct in believing that films are making books obsolete. Movies appeal to the next generation, thus making books obsolete.

[bell]

[applause]

TONY DAVEY: Fun time speech. No one is ever happy with their fashion choices as a primary school kid. That's how that works. So are you happy, first of all, to give your, what, 12-year-old self a little bit of feedback on how to improve?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Yeah, definitely, and you know, it's really interesting to watch this, because I definitely remember being extremely nervous in the moment. I remember not going for a really long time in it. And what I'd say is like-- what's clear-- and it doesn't just come down to the topic, but there's no real demarcation between what is good about movies and what is bad about books. There's an attempt to be like all books require more thinking, and I really think that it needed to be something more fleshed out in terms of the argument.

You know, it can't just-- and in terms of the rebuttal, it can't just be this-- they said this, this is wrong. As we all know, with rebuttal, you should be giving us extra reasons, extra sentences, trying to actually show why it's wrong. You can't just say that it is wrong. You actually have to prove it. It's not about assertion, it's about back it up. That would be the first thing.

The other thing is in terms of the rebuttal, it's not just that you have to back it up. There needs to be something more to it. You have to actually say more. So when I'm like, oh, but movies, you don't have to concentrate, books, they're only good for throwing at people. Which I stand by as an attempt at comedy from a 12-year-old. Good job. It's a-- you actually have to kind of say, why it's bad that we're concentrating in using books. We have to actually go through it a bit more. And a bit more engagement is really important. Also it can't just be rebuttal, rebuttal, rebuttal, rebuttal, and then summary at the three minutes.

What I would be saying to any student now is use 90% to 95% of your time on that rebuttal. Give them both barrels. There is never going to be a point as an adjudicator where I'm like, oh, too much rebuttal, man. You could have just slowed down, eased off a bit. No. If anything, I want more. I want you to be more constantly critiquing and attacking their ideas. And that's really what I think that speech lacks, which is a shame.

TONY DAVEY: Still, spectacular work and good feedback to young you. Young you went on to get better and better at that, so I'm sure someone said something similar to you back then. Alright?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Yes.

TONY DAVEY: Are you ready for the more fun bit, where you will rebut and attack and destroy your former self?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Yes. I think I can do it. Yes.

TONY DAVEY: Excellent. OK. I'll introduce you. Ladies and gentlemen, please now welcome the final speaker, Toby Hemmings, except much older. Yay, woo! Toby, yay!

TOBY HEMMINGS: So the other speaker, the preceding speaker, mentioned that books lack a lot of value. That in this new time, there's an obsolescence to this technology, that films replace them in a certain way, and we think this is completely and utterly untrue, for the following reasons.

You look at books, and you think about the imagined worlds that they create. The previous speaker said that you actually have to concentrate when you're reading a book, but we don't necessarily view this as a negative thing, even though they were trying to paint it in a negative light. This concentration, these imagined worlds, are, A, so much more richer and rewarding for an audience than just seeing somebody else's vision, but actually having to create your own. But not only that, entertainment shouldn't just be about plonking down in front of a screen or in front of anything and just having content zapped at you.

You should have to engage. It should require you to engage. Because as a result, it helps you to become a smarter, better person. It helps you to relate more to others. It helps you to understand the experiences that people who aren't wearing 3/4 length pants and a very odd polo shirt are having. Not to ever endorse critiquing appearance, but we'll make an exception in this case.

It's also this notion that there's a new standard of entertainment, the other team said, and there's a certain timelessness to being able to actually engage with the written word. You're never not going to need to engage with the written word, and if books can make this enjoyable, that's also a version of sneaking vegetables into food, essentially. It's a way of actually getting something substantive out of something that's seemingly 'fun' or 'easy.' And this is why we think the previous speaker's arguments are completely and utterly untrue, and completely invalid in this case.

TONY DAVEY: Yes. Harsh but fair, I think. Very nice, Toby.

TOBY HEMMINGS: You've got to be rude. You've got to be tough. You've got to be tough on the kids, you know?

TONY DAVEY: That's very fair. Alright, thanks for joining in. And we'll see you around, hopefully back out there adjudicating and working once it's OK to debate again. Alright?

TOBY HEMMINGS: Looking forward to it. Looking forward to being back out on the road.

TONY DAVEY: Cool. See you, Tobes.


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