So you’re a wizard, Harry, and it’s the first day of a new school year at Hogwarts. It’s time to pick your extracurricular activities, and you’re not quite athletic enough to have made the Quidditch team. Why not go out for debate?
Debate always starts with a topic. It usually takes the form of a resolution. Here are a few the kids at Hogwarts might be tackling this year.
Resolved: House elves should be properly compensated for their work.
The affirmative team argues in support of the resolution. In policy debate, the affirmative team proposes a policy. The government should free house elves and employers should pay them a livable wage. The negative team argues against it. House elves are not human and therefore not subject to government regulation.
Perhaps this debate is Hermione against Draco. Hermione takes a pro-SPEW position, naturally, and Draco argues for the old ways.
Hermione is the sort of student who would have a plastic tub full of arguments (literally) explaining why house elves deserve civil rights. They are clever creatures, slavery is illegal, and continuing to enslave house elves will lead to a house elf revolt the likes of which the world has never seen. And of course, this top-notch student's arguments will be well-organized and persuasive.
Resolved: All wizards are equal, regardless of parentage.
Draco’s speeches would probably be like Cher’s in Clueless. (“Was I the only one listening? I thought it reeked.”) He’d argue the way the old families have conducted business for many generations is the best way, but he’d be lazy about research and preparing his arguments. His most fleshed-out point would probably be that Hermione is a frizzy-haired mudblood.
Which is why the topic of wizard equality is so relevant. The abilities of one’s parents shouldn’t matter. Hermione would argue against pro-pureblood laws, and do so effectively.
Resolved: Equal rights for ghosts.
If a ghost can teach a Hogwarts class, a crafty debater could argue, why can't he also vote and hold office? For that matter, perhaps the people who live in paintings should have equal rights, too, so long as they can move about.
Of course, that last part is key. A negative team could easily argue that painted people are confined to art, and ghosts aren’t even corporeal, so why should they be allowed to vote?
Resolved: House points at Hogwarts should be abolished.
Perhaps a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff student would argue that the point system is unfair, awarding points to houses based on the work of a few students. That is, just because Harry Potter defeated Voldemort that one time… and that other time… and that other time… doesn’t mean Gryffindor should automatically keep winning the House Cup. The House Cup certainly hasn’t been an incentive against breaking the rules, one could also argue. Everything from illegally making polyjuice potion and sneaking out after curfew to forming Dumbledore’s Army should have meant docked points. Just goes to show how out of touch the system is, doesn’t it?
The negative team could argue that it’s tradition! A house being awarded the House Cup is a great honor! And trying to earn points does keep some students (*cough* Neville Longbottom *cough*) in line.
Resolved: More should be done to prevent Quidditch injuries
In the Muggle world, the debate over injuries in football has sprung up again this season. So in the wizard world, serious injuries in Quidditch games should be addressed. Do those players even wear helmets? How do they prevent concussions? Wizard medics probably have a potion for that, but surely getting hit in the head repeatedly by errant quaffles or renegade brooms has lasting effects even magic can’t fix.
Of course, the negative team could argue that the risk of injury is half the fun.
Those are just a few of the topics the Hogwarts debate team is taking up this school year. Do you have a suggested debate topic? Let us know at @QuirkBooks!