Photograph: (from left to right): Lewis Iwu (Team Coach) - Sam Collier - Akshay Karia - Ben Goldstein - Michael Gove - Tasha Rachman
"To inform persuasively, to argue with grace and respect, is both talent to celebrate and skill to practice and perfect."
Last week the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, took time out to meet the ESU World Schools debating team and wish them luck as they head off to the championships in South Africa.
During the 25 minute meeting in Mr Gove's office, he was very interested to find out how the team had been formed. Ben explained that they all had a lot of debating experience from competitions held throughout the year, and had applied for the trials day run by the World Schools Committee of the ESU. Asking how they had found the trials, the Secretary of State was met with a series of groans and the resounding response, "tough!"
Speaking about the importance of debate, Mr Gove likened the ability to construct a convincing argument to having "a magic power" and, in a sentiment echoed in letters written individually to each team member, reminded the team "debate distinguishes our species as flight does birds".
The team then discussed some of the motions they will face in Cape Town with the Secretary of State, giving him a run down of their toughest opposition in the competition. The team said that they would love to make the final, if only to take advantage of the opportunity to debate in front of Desmond Tutu, who will chair the debate. The team explained, however, that they were anxious of which side of the debate they would be speaking on should they reach that far, as the motion for the final is that 'This House regrets South Africa's decision to use the Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than prosecuting perpetrators of crimes committed under Apartheid'.
You can follow the team on the ESU twitter feed @ESUDebate and with regular updates from Jason Vit who is with the team.