Sharp-witted debaters from Penrith Selective High School went head to head with North Sydney Girls’ debating team to decide whether “the killing of Osama bin Laden has made the world a safer place”. The inaugural competition, Debate the Future of America, was organised by the United States Studies Centre as part of the University of Sydney’s Open Day at the weekend.

The victorious team, North Sydney Girls High School who won three iPad 2s for their school, sweated it out in three high level debates with other Year 11 and 12 teams from schools across NSW during August, tackling topical issues like the removal of Australian troops from Afghanistan and the contribution a tough refugee policy makes to our national security.

“The debate, the first of its kind, was a unique initiative to engage a younger audience in world issues and make them aware of the strong links between the US and Australia,” said Professor Geoffrey Garrett, CEO of the US Studies Centre.

Other schools locking horns during the debating competition included Cranbrook School, Pymble Ladies College, Sydney Boys High School, James Ruse Agricultural High School, Reddam House and St. Scholastica's College.

United States Studies Centre Research Associate Tom Switzer, who judged the debate final held on Saturday said: “These debate topics are a far cry from the sort of debates I tackled as a high school student. It goes to show how much the world has changed and how the nature of education is changing to keep apace.

“It was a tough call as both sides were sound in substance and highly articulate. All speakers clearly have the potential to be participants on the talk-show circuit.”

Third speaker of the winning team, Lucy Lester said: “The debate was a very challenging experience and even if we hadn’t have won we all felt that our skills and knowledge of world issues had matured and developed greatly over the three rounds. Teenagers don’t normally get to comment on these types of issues so it was great to have our voices heard!”

The debating competition is one of a calendar of events the Centre has organized to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, including a guest lecture by former Prime Minister and US Studies Centre Council Adviser John Howard, at a Centre undergraduate class on September 13.