History: Vietnam Debates Part 1


This half-term has seen furious deliberations break out in GCSE History classes.

A series debates have taken place with the goal of determining whether the United States of America should pay war reparations to the people of Vietnam as a result of the Vietnam War.

With the class split into prosecution and defence, students took responsibility for researching their cases, gathering evidence and presenting their findings across the course of the court hearings.

"As an active learning and revision tool, this has been an incredibly valuable exercise," said Mrs Katy O'Hara, Head of History and Politics at Bede's.

This approach to learning was first trialled by the History department last year.

"Although there are certain common sources supplied to both sides of the debate," continues Mrs O'Hara, "the success or failure of the teams relies on pupils undertaking independent research - a skill they all need to develop before they undertake Sixth Form studies."

The two team spokespeople throughout these latest sessions have been Max Fisher and Hal Potter, both of whom scratched up victories during the hotly contested discussions.

The first debate, themed around Causes of Involvement, went to Max Fisher's prosecution, while the second debate, centring on US tactics, went to Mr Potter's team.

The crucial third debate, on the guerrilla tactics used by the Vietcong, saw Mr Fisher's contingent present a striking case in favour of the Vietcong's approach.

"My aim for this session today," said Mr Fisher in his opening statement, "is to, rather than justifying the savage tactics utilised by the Vietcong, explain the necessity of their actions."

Mr Fisher's counter-argument, which turned on the moral authority of the United States, failed to connect however.


"40% of the tactics used by the United States of America contravened the Geneva convention," added Mr Fisher, "while the use of guerrilla tactics from the NLF was entirely necessary, based on the Vietcong's desire to unite two nations."

The fourth debate, concentrating on the My Lai Massacre, is tabled to take place during Week 5.

There will then be four more debates - eight in total - to complete the series.

To read how the next leg of the series of debates played out, please click here.