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The Arts Unit @home Art Bites – High school debating – 2. Stop rebutting yourself
TONY DAVEY: Hey, Indigo. How's it going?
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Hey, Tony. good. How are you?
TONY DAVEY: Excellent, excellent. Staying safe. So you're about to watch with us one of your debating finals, which I think you went on to win? First of all, can you just tell us quickly a bit about? Yourself say hi to people.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Hi, everyone. My name is Indigo. I've been doing debating for way too long. I did lots of debating in Primary School and High School. I loved the Premier's Debating Challenge and all of these kind of workshops that The Arts Unit runs. I was lucky enough to go to JSDC, which I think you'll hear a little bit about later. And that's the debate that we're going to watch together today. And I thinking in Year 10 we won the state Premier's debating competition for year ten and a bunch of other random things. It's very fun and a very good activity.
TONY DAVEY: Yeah. Excellent. That's right you. You won a couple of things in year ten. And now of course you do workshops around New South Wales. Some of the people watching will recognise you, at least if they saw you in primary school.
All right. So we're going to watch, like you said, the final of the Junior State Debating Championships. What that means is ten different regions around New South Wales pick their four very best debaters, and those people converge on the University of Sydney for a three-day tournament, where they debate each other a bunch of times. And then this is a video of the final that you guys were in. You were, I think, the first speaker on the negative.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Yeah.
TONY DAVEY: And the topic was that we should ban religious schools. So yeah, an excellent topic. You ready to watch out with us? And then you're going to give yourself a little bit of feedback and finally do some rebuttal of your old self.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Mm-hmm.
TONY DAVEY: OK, cool. Here we go then.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: We as the negative today believe that the removal of religious schools in society is a restriction against choice that has no basis in furthering society's tolerance or respecting a family's belief system. In rebuttal today, we've seen this major issue of do religious schools disadvantage people who go to them, and does it marginalise them in society?
So before we go into the smaller issues of does it make them intolerant to society? Do they only learn their religious customs? And does it disadvantage them in the workplace later on? Let's have a look at how this model is actually going to pan out.
The opposition wanted to tell you that it was going to be fine to ban all religious schools because what would happen instead is that we would have a class of religion, of ethics, in the state schools and in the private schools that would help boost knowledge about other religions.
They wanted to tell you that just by banning religious schools and replacing it with one class for all students, about every religion, that was going to ensure that religion still had the same importance in society. We think that the effect of this model is actually going to be quite different.
The opposition today wanted to tell you that by ensuring that people from a certain minority religion or a majority religion could not go to a school that suited their lifestyle and their belief system directly, it was going to improve diversity for all of society. But what we think will actually happen is this.
You're put in that ban. People can no longer go to religious schools that are suited specifically to their belief system. What happens then is that then you have this marginalisation of minority religions. They are then ignored in state schools because there is a minority.
Perhaps you only have like five or six people from a minority religion in that school. That religion then just gets completely ignored, their lifestyle is squashed, and they no longer have that belief system because it's been crushed by the school that ignored it because a bigger religion, like Catholicism, like any religion under the Church of England, which is a majority in Australia, is going to take over the majority of that school. That is going to be the major religion in that school.
We don't think it is going to improve diversity in school because what we think will actually happen is that a school will just become a majority of one religion, and then they'll be like, oh yeah, we do have a couple of Muslim students, but I don't really know where they are. That's the kind of effect that is going to have today.
We think that it is not going to be helpful to ban religious schools because we think you are going to marginalise a minority. And we think that that is directly persecuting minority religious groups.
Three issues in this idea of do religious schools disadvantage people in society. The first was that people who went to religious schools were intolerant to the rest of Australian society because they did not understand the way that Australian culture works because they were so sheltered. We think that it is intolerant to ignore or demean that person's religious beliefs and religious freedom by banning religious schools.
We think that that is going to actually make the rest of society more intolerant to them if you ban that. We think that's going to promote an idea that you can have whatever religion you want, so long as you do it behind closed doors and as long as it doesn't affect our way of life. That's not the kind of attitude that we want to promote to Australians. If we want a tolerant society, we need to be able to have religious schools. We need to be able to have specialist schools that cater to an individual.
They wanted to tell you that they would only learn their religious customs, and that would leave them disadvantaged later on in life. So on that issue, we wanted to tell you that often these people who go to a religious school are going to be better educated on religion than somebody who just goes to a public school. Because it is specifically a religious school, they are better going to understand the role of a belief system or the role of a religious culture in society. And they're going to have a better understanding of that than someone who goes to an ethics class once a week.
Furthermore, we think that their religion and ethics class section of the model wasn't actually going to work because already we offer religious and ethics classes. People don't want to take them. And if people do take them, they don't listen. They don't know anything.
We think that if you go to a religious school, you're actually going to understand that religion, as well as the kind of role that other religions have, even if you don't, like, know the Apostles' Creed off my heart because you go to a Muslim school. You're still going to understand that a person's Christian belief is important. If you go to a Christian school, you're going to understand that respecting other religions is also important.
We think that it wasn't actually going to cut them off from the rest of religious society if they went to a religious school. We didn't think that problem was there.
As well as that, they wanted to tell you about racial tension and workplace issues later on because they were so sheltered. We want to tell you that these schools are still in Australian society. They still are governed by the Australian government. They still do go to Westfield and Hurstville. They still do see people who don't go to religious schools. They still have those connections in society. We don't think it was that kind of exclusive culture they wanted to tell you about. Therefore, we think those people were still open to the rest of society, still understood how the rest of society functioned, which wasn't that different from them, other than they went to a school that functioned differently on different values, that were suited to their lifestyle choice.
We think that in this debate, because parents have a closer connection and better understanding of their own beliefs, as well as their own child, parents are in the best place to decide how their child is educated. If the opposition today believed there was some direct harm to children or society by going to a school that fits their family culture, belief system and values, then they would have to ban all specialised schools. We think that schools that are Performing Arts Schools or schools that are Selective Schools or even a school that is like Montessori, suits some students really well, suits their lifestyle choices really well. And we think that if you wanted to ban religious schools you would also have to ban all of those schools.
Today, because we believe religion to be a lifestyle that parents have the right to uphold in their family, we should not be banning religious schools because it restricts that freedom.
Two points in my substantive today. The first is on the choice of parents and the second is on restriction of religious freedom. My second speaker today will be talking about government intolerance and how this is a step towards a monoculture in Australian society.
On this first issue of parents' choice. We wanted to tell you early on that if you were to ban religious schools, you would be drawing an arbitrary line as to what kind of monoculture those specialist schools promote. So we want to talk about today things like sporting schools. Say you live in a really, really sporty family, and you're really talented at that. Your parents may choose to send you to a sporting school where you will really excel because that's the kind of lifestyle that your family leads.
Now we understand that religion is a little bit different to, like, loving a sport, so let's talk about Montessori schools. There are certain students who, because of their lifestyle choices, need a more flexible timetable. For that, we have Montessori schools, which are going to suit that person's lifestyle choices and that person's individual needs.
We think that if you were going to ban religious schools, you would have to ban all schools like that. And then you would lump all students into schools that were run the same way, that had the same kind of timetable, the same kind of uniform code. We think that that was going to lead to a monocultural society.
In a majority of cases, parents decide on a family's religious beliefs, and as well as that, family rules and structure. Now we think that the best way for society to run is for the Government to only step in in the place of parents if parents were in some way directly harming their children. Because the opposition today cannot prove that there is some direct harm to a child being educated in a certain religion, we think that there is no reason for the government to undermine the parents' belief structure and rules in their household.
We think that so long as the child is under the age of 18, the parent is in full control and has the full responsibility to be able to say, "we are a Muslim household. You can go to this Muslim school." We think that if in a case that child was being forced to be Muslim or forced to follow Islam, that was going to be a problem. And in that case, the government could step in. But because largely it was a lifestyle choice that their children would continue on or then question later on in life, we thought it was OK for that. We think that it is unhelpful to the choice of parents and to the role of parents for the government to take that choice away.
So what does banning religious schools do to religious freedom? Whilst a majority of religious schools are Christian or Church of England in Australia, there are a number of minority religious schools. We can see that in Emanual or Moriah in Sydney. And then banning those schools is a restriction of religious freedom. What this does is it sends a message of, you can do what you want behind closed doors, so long as the rest of society doesn't see it. We think that that promotes a society of intolerance.
Now on my second issue of substantive, what are the benefits of religious education? Three sub points. The first is on tolerance. The second is on specific education needs. And the third is on cultural diversity and support.
This first issue of tolerance. We think that it was going to promote a society of tolerance if you allow people to be educated in a way that suited their lifestyle choices.
On the second idea or specific education, we thought a majority of religions had really, really important things. So things like prayer times, special dietary requirements, the time that they needed to go to church, or the days that they needed to attend mosque. Those things were things that, if you took away religious schools, religion would suffer from, that would be taken away from religion.
We think that normal schools would not be able to tailor to the specific needs of religious students. As well as that, in this last idea of the cultural diversity and support, we think that religious students were really going to suffer if you put them in a school where they will be marginalised because they come from a minority religion or a school where their faith would be really, really tested and crushed, essentially, because the majority of society would disagree with it. For those reasons, we are proud to negate.
TONY DAVEY: OK. So, yeah. Good speech I thought. If you were an adjudicator back then, what kinds of feedback would you give to your former self? You ready to give yourself some feedback?
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Yeah. Let's do it.
TONY DAVEY: OK. Cool. Here we go.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Oh. So, I think I was pretty OK in year nine. Year nine of me wasn't too bad. That wasn't the most awful speech I've ever seen a year nine kid give, but I do have some key bits of feedback.
So the first bit of feedback that I think I would give myself is that for the first maybe minute of my speech, I spend way too long talking about what the other team's ideas are, and I spend way too long explaining it for them. So my first bit of feedback would be, when you're trying to explain what the other team's argument is so that you can then rebut it, you want to do that as quickly and as concisely as you can, so ideally in only one or two sentences. If you watch that video again, I spend about maybe like six or seven sentences telling you what their case is. But we just heard the first affirmative speech, so we knew what those ideas were already, so I didn't need to waste the time. So I would say shorten the time that I'm spending making the other team's case for them.
I think the other thing that I did well at one point, but which I needed to do more of, is what's called burden-pushing. And what that means is, essentially, telling the adjudicator and telling the audience what the other team needs to prove to win the debate.
So in the argument about parents' choice, I said something like, the other team would need to prove that there is a direct harm to children when parents make a choice to send their kids to a religious school. And what I'm really doing there is I'm telling the adjudicator, hey, you really need to be listening, and the affirmative team needs to be telling you that there is a serious harm in order to make this change. But I only did it really in that argument. And that's a really important thing to do in every argument, is to tell the adjudicator what it is that the affirmative team needs to do to prove that the change is necessary or is going to be a good change.
I think the last bit of feedback that I would give myself is something that I think I did well in this debate and something that I think really helped us win the debate overall, which is that it's really easy if you're on the negative team of a debate like banning religious schools, to just think about the kind of biggest stakeholder or the biggest group in the debate, which in Australia, would be Catholic schools or kind of Church of England Protestant schools.
The problem with focusing on those schools, is that they're not particularly sympathetic to adjudicators or to audiences, because we know that the Church of England is really big. We know that there are lots of Protestant Australians. We know that those schools have a lot of funding and a lot of money.
So if you debate about that group, the arguments that you make, which are like, well, these kids won't be able to practise their religion in a normal state school, don't really work because there are lots of Christian kids in normal public schools. I'm sure lots of you know that from your own schools. So that argument doesn't really work.
So you need to make that argument, by focusing a lot of the debate on the smaller, but more sympathetic, stakeholder of different minority religions in Australia. So I focus a lot on Islamic Schools, and that is because within Islam, there are specific traditions and specific religious practises, which you need a certain kind of support for. And it makes more sense that those kids wouldn't get that support in a general public school because there are so few of them.
So I think picking a sympathetic stakeholder or a stakeholder which works really well for your arguments, and spending most of your time talking about them, is a really good thing. But note also that I don't ignore Catholic schools or just like general Church of England schools, because they are a big stakeholder, but I just try and put most of the emphasis on the best stakeholder for us.
TONY DAVEY: Yeah. Excellent. Sounds like some very, very good feedback for yourself and for everyone. So how do you feel about maybe delivering a little bit of rebuttal against your
former self and trying to maybe help the affirmative get the win this time? Ready to go?
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Yes. Sounds good.
TONY DAVEY: Excellent. OK.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: So the negative team has three main ideas in this speech. The first idea is about parents' choice. The second relates to tolerance and diversity. And the third is about the effect that religious schools have on the religious education and religious beliefs of a student. So I'm going to deal with each of those now.
On the first, about whether or not parents deserve or have the right to a choice about sending their kids to a religious school, we have two different planes from the negative team. The first claim that they tell us is that the parents know the kids best, so they'll make the best choice. A few responses on this.
The first response is to say that that is not necessarily true for religion because religion is distinct from things like whether or not you know your kid is good at dancing, or whether or not you know your kid is good at sports, because religion is a deeply personal set of beliefs.
In that parents might hold their religion particularly close to their heart, maybe they've held those beliefs their entire life, but that doesn't mean that they understand their own child's belief or their own child's relationship with whatever God or religion that they believe in.
And so insofar as it is a very personal thing, we shouldn't allow parents to have a blanket choice over that aspect of their kid's life. Because there are lots of other aspects of kids' lives that we don't allow parents to intrude on. For instance, we don't allow parents to often read every single thing that their kid has written. A lot of parents don't think they should have access to their kid's phone or technology or reading their private messages. We don't let parents listen in on their kids' conversations with their friends. All of those are deeply personal things that we believe should be private, even between a parent and a child.
So it's not true that parents should have choice over every aspect of their child's life, and that's particularly true with religion because it is so personal. So it's not true that parents necessarily know their kids best.
But the second claim from the negative team is that parents make choices all the time for their kids about specialist schools and about their education. The negative team uses the example of things like a sporting school for a sporty kid and says that we would also have to ban those sports high schools if we were going to ban religious schools.
But for all of the reasons that I just gave you before, it's not true that going to a sporting school is the same as going to a religious school because it's far easier for a parent to know about the sporting aspect of their child's life than it is for them to know the ins and outs of their child's religious faith.
It's very easy to see if your kid goes to state for cross country and really loves running that they should be able to go to a sporting high school. But it's far more difficult for a team to be honest with their parents about their religious faith. And it's also far more likely that that religious faith changes over the period that they're in school. So it's not true that parents are able to make a choice about religion as easily as they are about, say, sporting coaching or a sporting school.
So it's not true that those two schools are the same. And because they're different, we would allow sporting schools to continue to exist, but we wouldn't allow religious schools to.
So the substantive contribution that we make in this piece of rebuttal is that the government has the responsibility to limit the extent to which parents can choose for their kids because we think governments are best able to see the benefits of things like tolerance and diversity that we tell you about. And we think that this is a choice that helps those things.
So onto the second issue of tolerance and diversity. The negative team has, again, two claims. Their first claim is that classes like ethics classes or world religions classes in schools aren't good enough, and they don't teach kids about a diverse enough range of religions. A few responses.
The first response is that if kids aren't paying attention in ethics classes, it's also probably true that they're not paying attention in religion classes generally. So at most, the harm is equal on both sides, and every kid is just sitting in every kind of class not listening and taking in information.
But we also think you're far more likely to be interested in some aspect of ethics classes than you are just learning about Catholicism or just learning about Islam because there's likely to be different aspects of the different religions which interest you. So the chances that some kids take something out of an ethics class is much higher. You're far more likely to learn a broader range of things. So we think ethics is better for that reason.
The second claim that we get from the negative team is that religious students are still exposed to other aspects of society, and so they learn diversity and tolerance when they're doing things like shopping at their local Westfield. A few reasons why this isn't necessarily true.
The first thing is to say that you're far more likely to be tolerant and far more likely to experience diversity if you are actively forced to be in school with different people from different religions and different backgrounds for six hours a day. You're far more likely to interact with them and have a conversation with them if you're sitting next to them in class.
But that's also particularly true because, for example, most kids make all of their friends in school. So if you're making your friends in school, those are the people that you go to Westfield with, those are the people that you hang out with on the weekend, and those are the people that you go to church or to the mosque with. So your experience and your exposure to different kinds of people is far, far smaller than if you went to school and made friends with a wide range of people from the start.
So we tell you that going to a general public school with a lot of different religions means you're more likely to make a wide range of friends. Tolerance is necessarily better when different kids are forced to go to school together.
On the final issue about how this affects religion. The negative team has one basic claim, which is that people aren't able to fully practise their religion in a school which has to provide for lots of different religions and religion is better provided for at a specific religious school, say an Islamic school or a Catholic school.
There's a few reasons why this isn't necessarily true. But note before I explain those reasons that it doesn't matter, particularly, whether it's a small drop in your ability to wholly practise your religion because we think the schools will still provide some basic level of that. But also because we think the benefit of tolerance and diversity is so much bigger, it's OK if there's a little bit of harm to the infrastructure that's provided to you to help support your religious beliefs.
So the first reason why it's not true that you're not able to practise your religion at a general state school, is that even though religions like Islam is still a minority, in so far as there in five or six kids, as the negative team says, at of school, they're able to demand the resources that they need from that school. But moreover, there's already existing societal pressure on that school to provide those things. Parents can ask for it. Your local MP can ask for it. You yourself can demand it. We think you're likely to asks for those things.
So for all those reasons, schools will provide that infrastructure, but also, they know that there's a variety of diverse religions, and ethics classes reinforces that. So we tell you, you will have the resources that you need. But even if there's a small harm to that school's ability to support your religious faith, the benefits are way too big.
TONY DAVEY: OK. Yeah. I thought that was extremely thorough and a little bit cruel. Well played. Thanks for coming along and rebutting yourself. Cheers, Indigo.
INDIGO CROSWELLER: Yeah. See you.
TONY DAVEY: See you around.
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