The Senior Debate – ‘This House believes that the youth of today have never had it so good.’

This debate was preceded by a lesson in Greek.   The ‘youth’ referred to (???????) was the age of an Ancient Greek youth that was ready to train as a soldier, but too young to fight in battles or to get married, so aged 12 to 15. From this, the Macmillan quote of “You’ve never had it so good” was placed into context.

With these preliminaries out of the way, the Motion was proposed by Yuanlong who told the youth of Elstree that they were lucky to be in a school today, rather than in the past when the punishments were severe and the teachers operated by frightening their pupils. He pointed out that rewards in today’s schools are so much better than punishments. Opening for the Opposition, Peter pointed out that there was better discipline in the past and that schools have become over-protective, supervising their pupils lives far too closely. He introduced the issue of the ‘Wiggly-Wag’ that could no longer be climbed above one metre, so Elstree boys could no longer roam free to climb trees and enjoy the grounds without adults watching over them.  He wanted the youth to learn how to risk things like boys used to.

Benedict was the second speaker For the Motion, and he looked at how living conditions have improved so much, and that 20 of the boys in the Hall would have been dead by now had they been at Elstree in the 19th Century, such was the death-rate among children in the past. He spoke about the confidence of the youth of today, and the way that they had easier lives owing to ICT and mobile phones. Charlie then countered for the Opposition, telling the House of the freedom that the youth of the past had when adults and parents didn’t fuss over them like today’s protective parents and teachers do. He said that mobiles and computers were distractions that isolated children and that you have more fun with someone in person, than texting them while playing video games on a laptop.

The third speaker For the Motion was Tom . He started by taking the House back to the grimy alleys of East London in the 1890s, when Jack the Ripper was terrifying the inhabitants, before Tom pointed out that Jack would have been caught early on owing to DNA testing and better criminal investigation departments. The world is now a safer place, he continued, and also a healthier and richer place. Tom then discussed robots and the way that technology has improved the lot of today’s youth. Tiger Li then concluded this part of the debate by quoting Stephen Hawking’s reservations about Artificial Intelligence and his warnings for the future of mankind. Tiger told the House that driverless cars would be dull and that robots will take away our jobs. He argued that the world is more polluted and that governments and adults are always making the youth of today worried and stressed.

The Debate was then opened to the Floor of the House. Ollie pointed out that ISIS today are worse than Jack the Ripper, and Wilf argued that we couldn’t live without the technology that we have now. Sam asked the Opposition when was the best time to be a youth – a question that the Opposition parried, by saying that they would include an answer in their conclusion…. …but they never did. Youssef pointed out that the poor were getting richer, but that the rich were getting richer at a faster rate, so the gap between rich and poor was widening. Hugo spoke up in favour of the much-maligned H&S rules, saying that they were there to protect us, and Peter also addressed the issue of H&S. Ollie argued that the youth of today are more anti-social as they isolate themselves with IT when they ought to be out with their friends. Freddie argued that the youth of today had North Korea to worry about; Benedict countered by saying that older generations had the Soviet Union and Communist countries to worry about. Rohan questioned whether the uncertainties of leaving the EU would make things worse for the youth of today. The proposers for the Motion countered that things might actually be better outside the EU. Altogether, there were 25 contributions from the Floor.

Summing-Up for the Opposition, Charlie also mentioned the worries caused by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. He argued that the youth of today live in a world of stress, and he said that the youth of the past were luckier as they had fewer exams that were more rigorous, and standards used to be higher. Benedict then Summed-Up for the Proposers of the Motion. He said that the youth of today have choice, that child labour no longer exists in the UK, and that 50 years ago, children were worried about the Cold War. He argued that nuclear weapons have kept the peace and that AI would not be a threat to today’s youth; the youth in 200 years’ time would have to deal with it.

A vote was then taken.

For the Motion : 49

Against the Motion : 20

The Motion was carried.

The Chairman thanked the boys of 8SEW for preparing their speeches so impressively.  He pointed out to the House that the speeches were solely written by the boys, after a class discussion and research session, and that the boys of 8SEW deserved congratulation for their efforts at this busy stage of term.