The Esplanade could fill the bill, providing a chance for S’pore youths to express their views

I was at the Esplanade recently to watch an exhibition match between two teams with great expertise in their field.

As I had expected a huge turnout, I was at the venue more than half-an-hour before the event.

After meeting Mr Aaron Maniam, an official of the show, I chose a good vantage point because I did not want to miss any of the action.

The stage was set. I could sense an air of excitement among the participants. However, I could not help feeling that something was missing. The audience! Perhaps, I was too early.

When the show finally started, there were only about 25 or 30 people there, including the participants. It was indeed a pity that such a wonderful learning opportunity was not fully made use of.

The event: deBAYtes (a public exhibition debate). The motion: This house believes that local artistic talent should not be shielded from global competition.

The debate was enthralling and thought-provoking. A lot of interesting points were raised although some contentious issues were left unaddressed.

The exchanges were lively. They were also spiced with humour which made the discussion fun to listen to. I salute the Esplanade and the Debate Association for co-organising the deBAYtes.

While the experience was enriching, I couldn’t help but think of the other students in Singapore. Where were they?

They could also have benefited from the debate, which was not only interesting but also free of charge. Audience members were given the chance to express their views and ask questions.

As the art of communication is a useful skill, I think young people should be encouraged by their principals to attend similar events in the future. It would be worth their time.

The improved attendance would also be good for the debate participants. They would be further motivated to show off their skills and encouraged to aim for even higher standards.

Perhaps, many students were not aware of the exhibition debate. If so, they should not miss the next one, which is scheduled for April 26 at 11am in the Esplanade central concourse.

The motion will be on the censorship of the arts as a necessary evil. It promises to be another exciting, entertaining and educational debate.

I should inform readers that I do not represent any organisation. I am writing about it simply because I want young people to benefit from this form of art.

While watching the debate, another idea crossed my mind. I wondered if the same place could be used as a forum for youths to express their views.

Of course, it would have to be properly organised. The taboos on subjects such as politics, religion, race and sex would have to be observed.

Holding such forums would give participants the chance to develop their public-speaking skills and have their opinions heard. The nation could also benefit from their contributions.

You may argue that such a forum could be held in schools. But, the atmosphere is different at the Esplanade, which is a symbol of artistic excellence.

Speaking at the Esplanade is like speaking in a grand ballroom. It is far better than speaking in a classroom.

Moreover, getting more young people engaged would result in more productive cross-fertilisation of ideas and greater appreciation of diverse views.

I would love to see public speaking promoted as an art. It would enhance the definition of art and help make for a more vibrant arts scene.
(This article can be found in TODAY of 2 March 2005)