Empowering Children

“I come to debate club because it helps me express my feelings about the things that I am passionate about”.

Emma, Year 6, Debate Academy Graduate

It was this quote, from our final session in a 10-week programme, which first made me realise the power of really listening to what children have to say. I had watched the students, Emma in particular, progress from simply listing points about a topic to being able to make in-depth, complex arguments that they delivered with passion and conviction.

Not only was it amazing for me to see Emma and her classmates improving in confidence and ability each week, but the fact that she too felt her self-expression develop and grow was fantastic.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing children as helpless or immature, incapable of dealing with the kinds of issues adults face on a daily basis. For 10 weeks, we debated about animal rights, the refugee crisis and explored whether to extend the right to vote to children of all ages. The unique and compassionate arguments put forth by this group of Year 5’s and 6’s confirmed the value of their experiences. Their thoughts, feelings and ideas really matter.

Children can bring wisdom and intelligence to difficult conversations, and in a world of Trump, Marine Le Pen and Brexit, it’s about time we started listening!