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Staff and students clash in fiery annual lunchtime debate

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At lunchtime on Monday 31 August, the annual staff vs student debate was held in the library to an audience of enthralled staff and students.

With Mrs. Bloomfield, Mr. McKinlay, and Mr. Lineham on the affirmative, squaring off against the negative Ysabella Abel, Pippa Sussex, and Lovinia Pluck, the debate was set to be a good one. The motion was “this house regrets schools in New Zealand trading-off the academic development of students in pursuit of character growth.” 

The debate kicked off with a blazing Ms. Bloomfield. Rebuking this “candy floss generation” of “special snowflakes”, she expertly criticized the ‘three decade long educational experiment’ which has resulted in ridiculous subjects like psychology, economics, and media studies. Unless we prioritize academics, students “may be nice enough, but they’ll never be good enough” declared Bloomfield, as she concluded her speech. However, first up from the student’s side was Ysabella Abel, a 2022 graduate returning to Nayland for one last debate. Ysabella said that her side included everybody, not just those who wish to go to university. Character development is foundational to academia, said Ysabella, and it better aligns with Te Ao Māori. “You can’t have a society without road workers and bus drivers, so our education must cater for them” finished off Ysabella’s case.

Next from the teachers was Mr. McKinlay, here to lay out the facts and settle this debate. “The fundamentals of education are reading, writing, math, and logic” said McKinlay sharply. “New Zealand is now the dumbest country in the western world” he remarked, “even lower than Scotland!” Finally, he told the audience of staff and students that “New Zealand is becoming a country of undereducated simpletons living in the stone age, that know how to kayak.” Unfortunately for McKinlay, next up to the podium was Pippa Sussex with fiery rebuttal. Pippa pointed to the Finnish education system as an example, saying that New Zealand was “on the right path” to large-scale academic success. After discussing the mental health outcomes of intensely academic pedagogy, Pippa posed an important question to the audience; could society stand without the economists and psychologists who sat opposite her on the teacher’s bench? 

Lastly, the teachers brought out their secret weapon – Mr. Lineham. He claimed that we are “stuffed” because of a a school system whose very marking schedule is about being “okay, a bit good and a bit betterer.” According to Lineham, school is “too focused on the fluff of Barbie rather than the academic of Oppenheimer.” Looking to his opposing bench to finish his speech, he pointed out that Ysabella had herself left high school after Year 12, and that Pippa, from an “offshore private school” might have had “a chance at success” had she not ended up here in New Zealand. However, Lovinia Pluck of the student’s team threw back rebuttal, saying the “teachers are only successful because of character – or are they any good at all?” Finishing her team’s substantive case, she also remarked there are many examples of successful paths that don’t involve being extremely smart and that academic focus stifles the character development which is most important.  

Finally from the students, Ysabella returned to quickly close off her side in a brief reply, engaging with Mr. Lineham’s examples and ending the student’s speeches. To conclude the debate, Mrs. Bloomfield spoke slowly so as not to confuse the audience of “a bit dim” students. Summating her case and sneaking in some last-minute digs, she provided a sharp end to a great debate. 

At the conclusion of these speeches, an adjudication panel of Tami Mansfield and Annabel Batt awarded the win to the student team, based on the strength of their points – and perhaps the lack of insults thrown at the audience. 

The Ҵý Debating Club is a fantastic way to meet new people, build confidence, gain skills and have fun. If you are interested, they meet every Monday in Room 30, led by the knowledgeable Mrs. Bloomfield. There are many competitions with schools across the region that Nayland participates in, and total beginners are welcome so come and have a go. 

By Matilda McMullen & Finn Kerby-Pinguet