Listed on October 18, 2013 in Blogs!

For the past few years I have enjoyed being a judge in debating competitions for sixth-formers organised by The Institute of Ideas and the English Speaking Union. They are quite different. The latter focusing more on presentation and speaking skills. Certainly more challenging for participants and judges, the IoI competition focuses very much on the issues themselves. On Wednesday this week I judged the Dorset round of Debating Matters – the name of the IoI competition. It was a terrific evening with three debates on Smart Drugs, Renewable Energy and Hate Speech. All very topical and all enthusiastically embraced the various teams. They were utterly fearless and impressively mature in their comprehension of the subjects under scrutiny.

Of course, the reason I mention this is because it is true that as we get older we seem less willing to really discuss and debate. It is as if we don’t want to cause offence! This is ironic because in many ways we become more certain of our position on a whole host of issues – even entrenched in our ideas. We become less open. Now, of course, this is a wild generalisation but I simply ask the question as to when you have radically changed your view on something? Recent surveys have shown that younger people are far more flexible and able to change their ideas. Older people less so.

It seems to me that engaging in the ideas or challenges of our time in a reasoned way is crucially important for the vibrancy of our democracy and the health of society and our communities, however you define them. This encapsulates what we call The Dillington Challenge! Don’t simply stay in the same place and reinforce long held positions but put yourself in the thick of it and see what happens. You may even change yourself in the process.