Schools square up

From in《The Student Standard》10 May, 2010
Written by Andrew Ho

Over 170 teams, six months, countless hours and hundreds of debate motions went into this year’s Sing Tao Inter-School Debating Competition. But there could only be one winner. South Island School defeated defending champions La Salle College in the final showdown.

THE final of the 25th Sing Tao Inter-School Debating Competition was held at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai last Tuesday. The final motion was: The FIFA World Cup matches should be broadcast live on free-to-air TV stations free of charge. The affirmative team was South Island School and the opposition was defending champions La Salle College.

At first glance many thought the motion wasn’t even debatable as, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to watch World Cup matches for free? The defending champions, charged with opposing the motion, had a serious fight on their hands if they were going to repeat their triumph of last year. Both teams convincingly delivered their messages.

  “Welcome to Hong Kong, you have to pay.” This was only one of the many catchphrases used by La Salle College. They were smart in capturing the audience’s attention and delivering memorable lines. The debating stage resembled a boxing ring and the two teams were quick to throw punches.

Round 1: Coverage and revenue
THE aggressive La Salle boys made the first move: “We will show you how our opponents have failed to account for the fact that we are in a free market system. Their proposal is nothing more than detrimental and impractical,” captain and the best debater of the day Griffith Cheng said. He confidently displayed his know-how and genuine knowledge of the subject.

  La Salle’s Anto Nicky then added, “We already have 100 percent coverage of the World Cup matches in Hong Kong.” He quickly then moved onto the money issue.

     “Let me tell you that 52 percent of FIFA’s revenue comes from broadcasting licences, and it is always the largest portion of its income. If we didn’t pay for what we want to watch… FIFA would go bankrupt and we would then have no more football matches to watch!”

  Anto was very convincing and the audience seemingly followed his arguments but the South Islanders were quick to respond, delivering a crushing blow. Their first speaker Tiffany Chung said with emotion, “164 countries get the World Cup free on air and live. What we are saying is that we should stick to FIFA’s current policy that countries are obliged to broadcast at least four matches on free-to-air channels. Nothing has changed.” Her finishing blow came with, “If what you are saying is true, then why didn’t FIFA go into bankruptcy ages ago because what we are saying is the same as what FIFA has been doing for decades.”

     The captain of South Island also pointed out that “according to statistics from official sources, 90 percent of viewers have no access to paid TV channels.”

Round 2: On principle
SOUTH Island cleverly struck an emotional chord with the audience in mentioning the principles of the game of soccer. “The power and popularity of football are not to be overlooked,” they said. Quoting numerous papers and official sources, they explained that the World Cup serves as a unifying power for nations and how it’s a time for the rich and the poor, men and women, children and elderly, to come together to watch the games on equal ground. Using this, they went on to attack La Salle.

  Ivan Siu, second speaker of South Island, asked, “So are you asking little children to go to a bar to watch games? And are you asking people to pay for a drink just to watch a game?” South Island said families should be given the option to watch the games live and free at home together.

Round 3: Techniques
THE debate was extremely exciting and both teams were very competent. South Island used quotation techniques in the debate, quoting authorities and renowned English newspapers. Their words were somehow more authoritative than their opponent’s. Statistics and important sentences were promptly quoted in direct response to their opponent’s vigorous attacks.

  On the other hand, La Salle were kings of the catchphrase, coming out with numerous memorable lines which grabbed the attention of the adjudicators and the 1,500 or so people in the audience. Some catchphrases included, “our opponents have only quoted but haven’t explained anything,” and “even if they are right, they are still wrong,” or “you get what you pay for,” not to mention many other memorable lines.

  The prerequisites of being a good debater such as a clear mind, logical thinking, referencing statistics, a good command of language and teamwork were all displayed by the debaters. Even the questions from the floor were witty. If you missed the competition, don’t miss it next year. Better still, take part!

The art of debating
“Whether you are the ultimate champion or not, you are already a winner,” said Mr Wong Yan-lung, Secretary for Justice, who attended the event. “You got the chance to stretch your muscles in debating which will benefit you for the rest of your life,” he told debaters.

  “I was also a debater when in school. I love debating and I think it’s a process to make things clear and to develop a critical and logical mind,” he said. “You get to come up with a strong statement to attack your opponent while defending your arguments. It’s fun and it’s witty.

  “Debating is a tough process to train one’s mind. Under careful cross examination you must stay focused even when your opponents might have convinced the audience or even yourself of the power of their arguments.”

  But what Mr Wong was most keen to stress was that like many things, debating requires teamwork. “In a debating team, teamwork is utterly important. Some are good at gathering information, some are good at generating ideas, some are good at organising and some are good at speaking. It’s a team effort.”

Debate in society
Senior Counsel Mr Cheng Huan said he was deeply impressed by the performances of both teams. “Debate is an important element in a democratic society and all of you have proven yourself a very good debater. In a civilised society, we listen to both sides of a story, and I enjoyed doing that here.”