10 APRIL 1964, Page 19


Sia,---Mr. John Swaney's condemnation of Union debates in • this country reveals a distinct lack of self-knowledge. No mention was made of his visit to this Society last term to debate 'That the New Frontier is an Illusion,' and indeed with good reason. It was on that occasion painfully obvious that the undergraduate speakers had done considerably more reading on their subject than the American visitors: the Oxford speakers treated the question seriously, while the Americans skimmed perfunctorily over it. having first indulged in a comedy routine that had obviously been well-rehearsed and performed in repertory at every Union that they had visited. Mr. Swaney also fails to take account of the fact that a visiting debating team from an American .university is not likely to attract as large an audience as the more distinguished guest speakers at a Union; it is for this reason, and because the American debat-

ing teams have shown a marked preference for comedy routine, that the more important motions are not wasted, and that the motions that fall to their lot are so often frivolous.

Finally, Mr. Swaney reveals the depth of the English corruption on his soul: his final sentence is a perfect example of a particular Union hack joke that was played out years ago, and is now only put on for the benefit .ol'our American guests.

Oxford Union Society