When I was at school, and afterwards, at university, I did quite a lot of debating.

 I had quite a good time doing it, and even some success, in debating terms.  I got a few trips out of it at the University Union’s (that means, at my fellow-students’ then-compulsorily levied) expense, when otherwise I would never have rubbed the money together for something like that (students didn’t earn money in those days in the way they do now) including, amazingly, two trips to Glasgow to compete in the grandiosely titled “World I-Vs.”  I earned a modest but at the time for me vital income adjudicating for the NSW Department of Education and later for the also grandiosely-titled “GPS” debating competition in Sydney.

And, yes, I guess I used Hitler as an example for practically any argument you care to think of.

I cringe a bit to think about this now.  Debating is one thing when children do it to practise marshalling and rebutting arguments and presenting them orally, but in retrospect I think my persistence beyond that age was rather infantile.

I made a lot of friends, most of whom ended up lawyers.  I, too, became one.

The eloquence of lawyers (such as it is) is a much more subdued genre than the rhetorical flights of fancy which I indulged in as a debater.  So I was surprised to see that the NSW Bar Association was running a series of seminars about Rhetoric.  I’m not sure if it isn’t just a bit of a wank.  I can’t say I learnt much from last night’s seminar about Cicero, though other people I spoke afterwards to found it more illuminating.  There was the usual clubby air of mutual back-slapping amongst the in-crowd which I find rather tiresome in such functions.  I’m not sure if I will go to the succeeding seminars, but, if so, I will keep my (handful of) readers here posted.

3 Responses to “Debating”

  1. Adrian Says:

    Might be cynical of me, but it sounds like an initiation rite — ie. you acquire the appropriate knowledge to win entry into the appropriate professional networks. Ugh. It also sounds like these seminars raid classical rhetorical studies for relevance to contemporary barristers.

    By the way, is that Arthur Emmett in the photo?

  2. marcellous Says:

    Adrian, which do you take to be an initiation rite? Debating or the seminar? If the former, then of course all sorts of people do debating. One of the other big follow-on careers appears to be to become a comedian (though the numbers are rather smaller). If the latter, then I think it is more about confirming one’s entree to the network than being initiated into it.
    As to your question (which refers to the link about “last night’s seminar” above) the lower photo is Arthur Emmett; the upper is Justin Gleeson.

  3. Rhetoric « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] my previous passing comment here. As an additional insight, we learnt from Justice Emmett in his introduction that he had formed an […]

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