Debating Differences

In its fourth year running the ‘Debating Differences’ scheme is a credit to all those involved. This was the first session of the ‘Debating Differences’ scheme for 2019. Where I and 5 other criminology/law students from Uclan and 5 men (prisoners) from HMP Kirkham took part in a debate about a specific contemporary issue in society. This scheme is made up of four sessions which all take place within the prison and controversial issues are deliberated between a mixture of both groups. This weeks’ debating topic was, ‘Is social media a force for good in modern society?’

On arrival, you could sense people’s nerves but that soon passed as groups were announced, people contributed, shared views and the discussion flowed. Everyone had preparation work which was received a week beforehand to argue for and against the topic. Having read both I was still on the fence and did not feel strongly either way. Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ were made up of a mix of both students and prisoners, one arguing for and the other against. I was assigned to team B, arguing why social media was not a force for good in modern society.

The first job was to choose in each group who would be the chair for our team. Everyone participated and shared their opinions on each of the point suggested, it was interesting to hear other ideas people had come up with and different views, that some of us had not thought about before.  The purpose of the program is to break down barriers and it did just that. It did not feel at all like being in a prison and we all interacted so easily with one another.

During the day we all had the opportunity to speak and put across our points as a team to the opposition. Everyone had strong valid arguments. Michelle the librarian from HMP Kirkham was a judge along with Bev Cullen from Uclan. It was a difficult decision as both teams had presented well but Group ‘A’ won as they presented more persuasive structured arguments, in favour of social media being a force for good in modern society.

The whole experience was ‘amazing’ I did not know really what to expect. I think everyone portrays an image in their mind of prison’s and prisoner’s, be it from images in the media and / TV programmes; but honestly can say I never once felt like I was in a prison or with prisoners. It is a fantastic opportunity that if you get the opportunity to take part in you should really go for it. This was my first session of four and I cannot wait for the next three.  It is thoroughly enjoyable, eye-opening and a unique way to build on skills such as confidence and public speaking, without feeling any peer pressure. You are all on a level playing field.

By Victoria Moseley

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