Peacemaker Obama? That's debatable

Two sixth-formers, debating Obama's foreign policy win Debating Championships

Darren Evans

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They could be the only young people in the world to believe Barack Obama, president-elect of America, will not live up to his election promises.

But Preethika Mahalingam, 16, and Emily Collier, 17, sixth-formers at Haberdashers' Monmouth School, took apart Mr Obama's foreign policy during the finals of the 2008 Wales Schools Debating Championships - and won.

They opposed a motion by James Staniforth and Martyn John - students at Cardiff's Bishop of Llandaff CE High School - that President Obama is the best hope for world peace. While the boys protested Obama would shift US foreign policy away from isolation to improve world relations, the girls argued he would be too preoccupied with domestic issues - especially the faltering economy - to push for peace.

Judges were impressed with the girls' debating prowess, believed they had the edge and awarded them the trophy.

More than 100 students took part in debating heats across Wales, culminating in last Friday's finals in Cardiff.

Issues debated were as diverse as nuclear energy, embryonic research, and the 2012 Olympics.

Martin Pollard, CEWC Cymru education officer and organiser of the event, said despite high standards, more teachers in Wales need to use opportunities within the new skills-led curriculum to encourage more students to have an opinion.

"It's important young people are able to express their views with confidence and be able to speak about the important issues of the day," he said.

"We would like to see this kind of activity present throughout students' lives so they are able to articulate viewpoints."

Mr Pollard said not only does debating improve thinking and communication, but it encourages speaking up in class and listening to opposing opinions.

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Darren Evans

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