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Hot Topic: The Heated Issue of the White Poppy

This week’s Hot Topic saw a departure from the normal format of the weekly lunch-time debates, with an issue debated by members of the Fourth Form with support of members of the Upper Sixth. The issue debated was whether or not the white poppies, produced by the Peace Pledge Union as a pacifist alternative to the traditional red poppy, should be allowed to be worn at the school on Remembrance Day in November. In contrast to the red poppy sold by the British Legion, the white poppy raises money for pacifist education projects, aimed at raising awareness of the social values and habits which make violence and war a more likely outcome.

Starting off the debate and proposing the motion that they should be allowed to be worn, Lindsey Fransmann (McClure, Year 9), supported by Sophie Iliffe (Cedars, Year 12) argued that over the years the red poppy as a symbol had become inextricably linked with militarism and war, and as such is no longer simply a sign of remembrance. He argued that the focus now should move towards attempting to confront and deal with the root causes of conflict and war, whilst simultaneously honouring and remembering those who had given their lives in the past. He argued that through the wearing of the white poppy, awareness of war and its causes could be increased and therefore it could help reduce the likelihood of war occurring in the future.

The opposition, Isobel Whitby (McClure, Year 9) and Sophie Loizou (McClure, Year 9), supported by Alex Warna (Weymouth, Year 13), argued, however, that the white poppy itself was an insult to those who had lost their lives fighting for their country in the past and moved away from the essence of the idea of the red poppy which is to remember those who have died in war. They argued that to allow the white poppy to be worn in the school would lead to a reduction in the money raised to support war veterans and their families and more generally a hijacking of Remembrance Day and the act of remembrance itself. At the end of the debate a vote was taken, with the opposition winning by 17 votes to 9. The topic was ably debated throughout with both teams presenting their arguments lucidly, with cogency and excellent public speaking skills.

Jonathan Bertulis-Fernandes (Priestley 2010)