With its origins dating from the beginning of civilization, the art of debate has been inextricably intertwined with the concept of open society. In ancient Athens, citizens gathered in forums to discuss and debate the most pressing philosophical and political issues of the day before casting their votes. Indeed, it may be said that true democracy cannot exist without debate. For democracy to function as it should, the values that debate encourages, namely reason, tolerance and the careful weighing of evidence, must be valued and cultivated. Perhaps this is what French philosopher Joseph Joubert meant when he said: “It is better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.” This sense of a shared journey toward the truth brings debaters closer together, even when they represent opposing sides of an issue. In so doing, debate fosters the essential democratic values of free and open discussion.
At Roscommon Community College, we believe that the process of debate offers profound and lasting benefits for our students and for the community. With its emphasis on critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork, debate teaches skills that serve individuals well not only in school, but also in the workplace and as citizens of democratic societies. Once students have learned how to debate, they are better able to critically examine the pronouncements of their political representatives and to make informed judgments about crucial issues.
With this in mind, two of the English teachers at Roscommon Community College, Ms. Siobhan Cullen and Ms. Siobhan Tully, have established the Roscommon Community College Debating Society. A weekly lunchtime debate is held where a wide range of local and global topics are discussed, with the principal aim being to foster a greater understanding of contemporary issues, whilst encouraging a free and lively exchange of ideas. All interested students are invited to participate, or just to observe if they wish, and students enjoy coming together to debate the topical concerns of the day. Sometimes the debate is just for fun, however students are also engaging on a more competitive basis as they prepare to go to competition, with students currently competing at local, regional and national levels. Debate motions are frequently proposed by the students themselves, thereby making sure that the participants are at the center of the decision-making process, keeping motions relevant and of interest to the very students who will be debating on the issues at hand.
In a recent exciting departure for our school, Roscommon Community College was delighted to host the inaugural round of our very own “War of Words” debating competition which saw our home debating team take on our fellow GRETB school Elphin Community College. Roscommon Community College was ably represented by Michael Lough (Captain, 3rd Yr.), Macie Collins, Dean Cribbon and Luke Keane (All 3rd Yr.), while Gilbert Muldowney (Captain), Laura Muldowney, Hannah Macken and Conor Dorr gave an illustrious performance on behalf of the Transition Year students from Elphin. Proposing the motion “That Selfies are the Ultimate Form of Vanity”, the Roscommon Community College team gave a spirited performance on the day, highlighting throughout the course of their arguments the importance of effective communication skills, as well as critical and logical thinking. On the day, however, Elphin gave an exceptionally strong performance and the visiting team was victorious. RCC greatly anticipates however another chance to face Elphin, when we make the return trip to our sister school in November for the next leg of the “War of Words” challenge.
Sincere gratitude is extended to our adjudicators on the day Mr. John Flynn and Mr. Paul Casserly, without whom the event would not have been possible. Both adjudicators gave the utmost consideration to their duties, giving wonderful support and very constructive feedback to all participants. Thanks also to RCC student Sean Egan who contributed greatly to the proceedings in his dual role as both Chairperson and Timekeeper, keeping the large audience of RCC and Elphin supporters captivated at all times. Everybody concerned thoroughly enjoyed the good-humored repartee and banter, with all students in agreement that debating is certainly an exciting activity, guaranteeing not only great fun, but also a sustained rush of adrenaline!
“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress."
Both students and teachers at Roscommon Community College are already looking forward to the next highlight in our debating calendar which will see our school host the “Roscommon Herald County Schools’ Debate” in the coming weeks. This maiden event is kindly sponsored by the Roscommon Herald and will take place in RCC on Saturday, November 19th. We are pleased to announce that the debate will be chaired by our guest of honor Luke “Ming” Flanagan MEP, and the winning speakers will progress to the Semi Final stage of the Western Schools’ Debating Championship. We anticipate a great afternoons entertainment at RCC as we continue to encourage debate within our school community. Enabling our students to be more engaged citizens as they go on to actively participate in an increasingly dynamic society can only serve them well, as they take their place in meaningful discourse of a political and global nature. The art of public speaking is surely a life skill for all, as students learn to cooperate with others while simultaneously understanding opposing views. A super success story for all concerned and in the ever-changing world we live in, the art of debate is a tool that could not be more advantageous and timely!
The Age of Enlightenment is truly alive and kicking at Roscommon Community College. Excitement recently escalated across the student body as an unprecedented number of students prepared to participate in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin. This year has been a successful one so far for the Science Department at our school as several projects have succeeded in qualifying for this prestigious exhibition, which was recently opened in the RDS by President Michael D. Higgins.
Successful in the Intermediate Biological Science sector with their project entitled “A Comparative Study of Fungal Diversity in Areas of Varying Light Intensity” were Transition Year students Sinead Dillon, Rebekah Daniels and Pedro Silva. The laboratory based investigation will examine the growth of fungus in bright and shaded areas where the students grew fungus under varying light conditions to identify the factors influencing fungal growth.
Ryan Tubridy with RCC TY students Sinead Dillon, Rebekah Daniels and Pedro Silva during the BT Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition
An intriguing project completed by Transition Year students Shane Donoghue, Sam Fitzmaurice and Theo O’Reilly-Linnane is entitled “An Analysis of Young Adults Gambling in Rural Areas in Comparison to Urban Areas”. This absorbing project is of vital importance to young people in particular as it investigates the issue of gambling and its frequency in rural areas as opposed to urban areas. Interviewed by RTE News on their project during the exhibition, the students were thrilled at the excitement generated by their work.
From L-R; Theo O’Reilly Linnane, Sam Fitzmaurice and Shane Donoghue with Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins
The third project representing Roscommon Community College was undertaken by Michael Staunton, Ben Finnerty and Michael Lohan. Competing in the Junior Social and Behavioural Science Category, the 2nd Year students have completed a captivating project exploring “The Effect on a Student’s Academic Self-Concept and Self-Esteem when Moving from Primary to Post-Primary School”. Their endeavours have led to some remarkable findings which made for thought provoking analysis in the RDS last week.
One of the projects, however, which has been receiving widespread national media attention is entitled “Insight from a New Generation- Fertility Issues”. Enjoying recent media coverage in both the “Irish Independent” and the “Irish Times” and Shannonside, this project was successful in the Senior Social and Behavioural Science sector and is the brainchild of 5th Year students Simon Leonard, Michael Egan and Conor Lavin. The hypothesis of their project necessitated the students carrying out a large scale quantitative analysis of the public awareness of fertility issues in Ireland. Fertility means the ability of being fertile, or to be able to conceive children (www.dictionary.com). Infertility is classified as a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse (www.who.int). An interest in this area was motivated by the programme aired on TV3 on September 7th 2016 which was entitled ‘Ireland’s IVF Couples’. The students were gripped by the premise that even though fertility is quite a topical issue, it is nonetheless a concern that is frequently overlooked. Fertility can affect anyone and here in Ireland it affects 1 in 6, which is a considerable amount of people. Ireland’s population in 2016 is over 4.7 million people, meaning that infertility affects over 730, 000 people here alone.
Simon Leonard, Michael Egan and Conor Lavin at the BTYSTE at the RDS presentations their project on people’s awareness of fertility issues.
As stated on Independent.ie, 5 in 6 couples in Ireland have no difficulty conceiving, but that 1 couple in 6 that is affected by infertility could be any couple we know. In 2015 there were 65,909 registered births, but how many of these couples knew about the topic of infertility? Infertility is something that is experienced by both male and female. The student investigations revealed however that a significant number of people believed that only women were affected by this issue. Conversely, the students research has shown that, depending on the circumstances, the causes of infertility can be traced back to both the male or female (8 out of 106 which equates to 7.5%).
Recently interviewed by Tanya Sweeney of the Irish Independent, Conor, Michael and Simon outlined how their project aims to discover people’s attitudes and perceptions towards fertility and the issues associated with infertility. The intrepid students have devised a test designed to capture how much people know about the topics of fertility and infertility. They self-designed their survey based on an American survey carried out by EMD Serono in 2011 on women aged 25-35 (In the know Fertility IQ Quiz 2011). A flaw was uncovered in their test as the students questioned why it should only be carried out on females aged 25-35. Males are equally the common cause of infertility as females are and our researchers believed a wider age demographic was worthy of investigation.
Of particular interest to our students was the fact that research showed that in Ireland the average age for first time intercourse is 18 in males and 19 in females (Irish Examiner), the students therefore felt that this age demographic should be included in our research. Although Simon, Michael and Conor understood that the project was not targeting intercourse issues but rather fertility issues, they felt people of younger ages would be interested in family planning matters in years to come, hence young people needed to be informed and educated on the issues at hand. Using the American test as a means of comparison, the group included some of the same questions so they could compare Irish research to that completed in America, and they also designed their own questions so that the situation here in Ireland could be determined. The study collected both numerical and descriptive data that was compiled using an Excel spreadsheet.
Although the survey was not be carried out on a global or even a national scale the students felt it would be beneficial and would contribute to a better understanding about an issue that is affecting 1 in 10 people around the world (www.resolve.org). What’s stopping you or someone you know from being that 1 in 10? It is hoped that the research conducted by our students will start the discussion on infertility in Ireland, especially amongst young adults. In the words of the students themselves “Our project is important as it will open people’s eyes to a very topical issue that is currently affecting many people. It will allow people to understand not only why infertility is so common but also will allow them to understand how to prevent it. We would hope that efforts will be made in order to help the next generation and to make infertility a thing of the past”. Following the exhibition the students were delighted to be contacted by ReproMed Ireland to acknowledge their innovative research and invite them to present their findings to both the clinical staff and scientists in their Dublin Clinic, and get a tour of their IVF clinics. This is a fantastic opportunity for the students that will help them further understand their research and complement their understanding within their Biology curriculum.
The staff and student body at Roscommon Community College would like to extend congratulations to all twelve of our students, along with their teachers Dr. Joanne Broggy Shea and Dr. Lohan. Their motivation, commitment and support to each other during the project phase was second to none and we would like to commend all students on their impeccable conduct and presentation of both themselves and their projects throughout the period of the exhibition. The respect shown to all interested parties, both young and old, was remarkable. The dedication and commitment of our students has made great advancements in the world of science and we look forward to your future endeavours in this field. Well done to all concerned.