College Debating Societies
Most colleges in our country have Debating Societies. Students with the help of their teachers, organize them. Each society has a secretary and other office-bearers.
We have a very good example of a debate in Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost (Book II). In the Debate at Pandemonium, Satan presides and the other fallen angels, like Belial, make speeches. All of them vote unanimously for the plan suggested by Beelzebub, to destroy mankind. Thus, they can take revenge on God.
Man alone, of all animals, has the ability for verbal communication and it is through this quality of speech, says Carnegie, that he best expresses his own individuality, his essence. Debating Societies develop this talent. They help students to get rid of their nervousness, timidity or foggy thought processes. They nurture their critical acumen and the ability to put forward cogent arguments.
`Conference’ makes one a ready man, according to Francis Bacon, the father of English essay. By ‘conference’ Bacon means discussion, debate. A subject that is discussed in the society may be new to some students. But- by listening to a lively debate, they will be able to understand it much better. At times, famous speakers and writers are invited to address the students. They benefit very much from these speeches. Inter-collegiate debates and quiz programs are also conducted.
Mock-parliaments are also held by the Societies. From each class a representative of students is elected and he becomes an M.P. There is a Prime Minister as the head of the cabinet, which will ‘Sink or Swim’ together. There is an Opposition leader and he has the rank of a Cabinet Minister. The Speaker is elected by the M.Ps. He conducts the proceedings of the House. The members ask interpolations and the Minister concerned gives replies. At times, the Speaker takes the Ministers to task for their failure in furnishing all the details required in the questions. If any M.P. speaks in an unruly manner and defies the authority of the Speaker, he is suspended from Parliament for a few days. The Speaker often refers to the conventions that are followed by the British Parliament, the mother of parliaments. He also tells the M.Ps the importance of the Feroz Gandhi Act. Under no circumstances does he allow M.Ps to deviate from the procedure followed in Parliament. In this he is really a martinet.
The members spend all their time talking. The very name “Parliament” from the old French “Parle-le-ment” or ‘speak the mind’ affords the best clue to its nature. To quote Maurice Cangton, “Democracy is a form of government by discussion!” Thus, mock-parliaments give to the students a good insight into the working of Parliament.
In short, Debating Societies make the students good speakers. Their minds become broader and their views more tolerant. They sharpen their intellect and stimulate their imagination. They also educate them.