TOPICS FOR DEBATE AT REINFORCEMENT CLASSESNews and media: The internet and social networking – and the unprecedented access theyprovide to information, ideas and each other – have revolutionized modern living. They havechanged forever the way we learn, communicate and interact. For many, they have enrichedand empowered us and extended and strengthened our relationships. But others worry thatthey undermine our capacity – and in particular that of young people – to engage with thecomplexities of a real rather than a virtual world, weakened our communication skills anddiminished our sense of community.The right to die: A series of high profile and often very moving cases in recent years has madethe right to die one of the most keenly contested debates of our time, raising complex medical,legal, legislative, religious and moral issues. Can helping someone to die ever be justified? If so,in what circumstances? What controls might be required to protect the rights of peoplemaking the decision to die as well as those of their family and friends and the medicalpractitioners and others involved in their care? If not, who has the right to condemn aterminally ill patient to prolonged suffering and how can that right be justified? What is thedifference between assisted dying, assisted suicide and euthanasia and does it matter?Animal experimentation: Scientists have for centuries sought to increase their understandingof the natural world through experiments on live animals – and for as long, critics have arguedthat such experiments are cruel, unethical and unecessary. But has such research contributedto human progress, particularly in the field of medicine, which could not have been achievedthrough other means – and if so, can it not be justified on the basis that our needs are ofgreater significance than those of animals? If researchers believe, on the basis of evidence,that their experiments on live animals could help protect human lives, how can they justify notpursuing them? Or should an animal’s wellbeing never be sacrificed for a human’s? If there arecircumstances in which live experiments can be acceptable, what controls are necessary toensure their integrity?Overseas aid: Even in times when the domestic economy is not under such pressure andpublic finances are not so stretched, what is the justification for overseas aid?Does it really bring millions of vulnerable people long term relief from poverty,starvation, disease and conflict - or are those problems endemic and unalterable? Even ifaid is capable of addressing these challenges, does not experience tell us that it is toooften misappropriated or misspent? At best, does it not encourage dependency andprevent impoverished societies from developing their own economies? And even if itsalves consciences in the developed world, is it not also often cynically exploited bydonor nations as an extension of foreign policy?Or is there evidence that aid is actually working? Are there models which not onlyguarantee that it can be strategically focused, adequately safeguarded and make asignificant and sustainable difference where it is needed most? Should aid be regardedas investment rather than charity and can it really help poor countries become less poor,more stable and more independent? If so, what do such models look like?
Legalising the drugs trade: For many legalising the trade in drugs would beunthinkable. But among those who have first-hand experience of combating drugmisuse, there is a growing number who believe that legalisation not only offers the bestmeans of taking organised crime out of the supply chain but would also save billions ofpounds in policing costs. Other experts disagree, arguing that more accessible drugs willincrease addiction, that the savings are overstated and that the drug gangs will simplyundercut legal supplies in order to retain their grip on trafficking.To what extent might legalising drugs reduce both organised and petty crime; howwould it save resources, including public money, and could they be better deployed inreducing drug abuse and its consequences; or, by destigmatising drugs and making themmore readily available and affordable, would legalisation simply cause an explosion independency and its attending problems, displace criminal activities and/or create newoutlets for criminals? How practical is the proposition: could the UK act unilaterally orwould the whole world have to follow suit for legalisation to work? Who would gainand who would lose?CONVERSATION TOPICS: Discuss with your partnersabout the following topics1. Politicians should receive high salaries2. The Internet is a reliable source of information3. Newspapers should always be impartial4. Access to information is a basic human right5. Rich people should pay more taxes6. War is always wrong7. Education should be free for everyone