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Law students pass judgement

by Alex Doudy

St Peter’s College graduate Ben Bishop argues a point at a debating workshop where he coached younger students.Law students are passing judgement at the State’s premier high school debating competition.

The lawyers-in-waiting have volunteered as adjudicators at the 2011 South Australian Schools’ Debating Competition where they must choose which winning arguments will carry a team through to the next round and potentially to the grand finals at the end of the year.

Volunteer adjudicator and third year law student Emily Knowles says she’s been involved in debating for years and was eager to take part.

“I was a keen debater in high school and am enjoying being on the other side,” she said.

“I thought it would be a fun way to improve my analytical skills, while at the same time acting as a kind of mentor for young debaters.”

Topics so far have included the appropriate age for Facebook use, the status of public transport being free, and the potential voluntary nature of voting.

Emily says adjudicators have to take into account a number of different aspects of a team’s argument and presentation.

“An adjudicator’s role is to hear speakers from both sides of a debate topic, and come to an informed judgement of which team presents the stronger case.

“There are points allocated for the arguments, style, and structure of the presentation, and so a debate can hinge on any one of these elements being a team’s strength.

“Matter, manner and method are the official criteria to assess speakers on; however I also like to consider the relative sophistication of each team such as language techniques, persuasive tone, and clear signposting of ideas, amongst other features.

“I believe it is important to promote the value of eye contact and confident rebuttal,” Emily says.

Emily, who also holds qualifications in psychology and languages, wants to practise law when she graduates and says she would recommend the experience to her peers.

“The skills practised through adjudicating are very relevant to my studies in law, because they promote sound reasoning and I am made accountable for my justifications, and there is a high level of responsibility placed on my informed opinions.

“I would highly recommend the experience of being a South Australian Debating Association (SADA) adjudicator to any budding law students who are interested in improving their critical analysis skills, and confidence in public speaking,” she says.

UniSA is sponsoring the SADA’s Schools’ Debating Competition, which has been providing a debating competition for South Australian students since 1967.

The winning team from South Australia will go on to compete at the week-long Australian National Schools’ Debating Championships in Perth later this year, where students are selected for the Australian Schools’ Debating Team for international competition.

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