Derby Debate Society Returns
After a year-long hiatus, the Debating and Speakers Society has returned. Benjamin Akroyd, Fernando Brown and Ben Marler are its new committee members.
On November 30th, they hosted their first event of the year: a taster session for anyone interested in the society. Austerity, social media and graffiti were discussed. For anyone who missed the debate, we have written a brief recap.
Each debate started with the speaker stating their motion before opening the discussion to the floor. This was when anyone was free to voice their opinions on the subject in a relaxed, open and unbiased environment. Throughout this informative exchange of ideas, the society’s values of knowledge, freedom and equality were particularly evident. The discussion would then end in a vote, and the motion being passed or rejected.
Does the rise in use of food banks represent a failure of austerity?
The Trussell Trust, supporting half the food banks in the UK, has seen a 70% increase in food bank usage since the implementation of austerity. The speaker argued this represents a failing of austerity, which aims to reduce government budget deficits through tax increases and spending cuts.
Some participants argued that using the example of the Trussell Trust was unreliable, as its statistics showed food used, not the number of people accessing the facilities. They felt that too much responsibility was put on austerity when other causes, such as the 2008 financial crisis or the current minimum wage, were just as liable to blame.
However, it was felt by some that the Government should prioritise the welfare of its citizens. They argued it was a question of morals rather than balancing the books.
In the end, the majority found the rise in food bank usage does represent a failure of austerity.
Is social media causing a disconnect in young people?
The term ‘young people’ was defined as youths aged 10 to 13 years old. Participants debated whether the current mental health crisis is perpetuated by social media, distancing teens from real-life social interaction, or solved by it, allowing youths to connect with likeminded individuals.
It was argued that young people were not mature enough to identify extremist opinions and form their own view. This brought to light the question of responsibility – would preventing young people from using social media sensitise them further? If we worked to de-platform radicals, would this invalidate freedom of speech? Many believed the key to solving the issue was education.
Ultimately, the majority found that social media does cause a disconnect in young people, although it was very close!
Is graffiti art or vandalism?
Many believed that the intention contributed to graffiti’s reception as art. Tagging was brought into question – does this count as a form of self-expression and development, or is it inarguably vandalism, lacking in meaning and message? Some felt a line needed to be drawn between tagging and artwork.
Others argued that graffiti was always anti-establishment; therefore, it could not be distinguished from vandalism. One speaker thought the graffiti community’s strictly upheld values of respect were evidence against this. This was then compared to Banksy, who many believe has disrespected other street-artists, and yet he is still considered an artist himself.
The vote revealed an overwhelming majority in favour of graffiti as art.
It was clear to see the society’s values with everyone’s voice and vote holding equal weight. The discussions were both informative and relevant. Taking part was optional, and participants were welcome to simply observe, though all were encouraged to express their views. It was a pleasure witnessing a calm and measured handling of conflicting opinions.
The Debating and Speakers Society will be hosting more events throughout the year. If you become a member, you can suggest topics for future discussion.
This Wednesday 6th November the society’s next debate will host Felix Dodds, author and lecturer at North Carolina university. Dodds, who will be standing for the Liberal Democrats in Mid-Derbyshire as a parliamentary candidate, will speak on UN Sustainable Goals. Although the talk is free, it will be ticketed, due to limited seating. Make sure to book your place as soon as possible (link below).
The committee also announced ‘Operation Vote’, which is a project designed to encourage students and staff to vote in the general election on December 12th. The project’s aims are to inform and promote voter registration and activity before the election, while remaining politically unbiased.
Lastly, the society revealed they have opened a new committee position of Public Relations Coordinator, which has been filled by Lou Milestone.
For more information on the Debating and Speaking Society, its upcoming event featuring Felix Dodds, Operation Vote, or the new committee opening, visit the links below.
Union website: https://www.derbyunion.co.uk/societies/debatingandspeakers/
Felix Dodds guest speaker event: www.derbyunion.co.uk/ents/event/2120/?fbclid=IwAR0o3–mteNYy15u0TL4aOeitoeynBO5gY2SMCtqqxCtad35uQ_sHcxWtfg