2014 Induction Week

From the 21st to the 30th of August 2014, eight hundred first-year students at Sciences Po Paris took part in the induction week. Throughout these ten days of activities, they have been initiated to public speaking, and a full-day session of discussion has been organized as part of the FORCCAST project.

Caption: Debate on the power of numbers, Boutmy lecture hall

Mastering the ways of public speaking, knowing which gestures to adopt when defending your point of views during discussions, developing arguments you can support whenever facing uncertainty… these are some of the educational missions of the FORCCAST project, which has been striving for two years to bind debates, public speaking and controversies.

During the induction week, eight hundred first-year students divided into small groups have been initiated for eight hours to debating and public speaking: an opportunity to combine form and substance. In order to prepare their argumentation and standpoint, participants have free access to resources, gathered together by the team of the library of Sciences Po, and to the studies of controversies made by the students at Sciences Po and the Ecole des Mines. This year, three forms of debates on three different subjects have been selected.

The first subject was the power of numbers. Starting from a course taught at the Ecole des Ponts by G. Jeannot, the students are initiated to the manipulation of numbers in the contemporary public debate. The numbers illustrate the income inequalities as well as the assets or gender inequalities. The students expose their ideas, find ways to support or adjust their opinion by using numbers as a means to illustrate.

The second subject was about palm oil and the consequences of its use in our lives and our consumption ways, without forgetting to look around its production. The students are aware of the issues: from public health to biodiversity, including global warming and the danger of the deforestation of primal forest needed for the plantation of huge palm groves. They acknowledge the position of the different actors in the debate (an agribusiness group which uses palm oil in its products facing environmental NGOs or doctors who raise the alarm…).

The third and last subject broached the creation of offshore wind farms in France. By performing public debates held in France in 2013, students throw themselves into simulation exercises and learn how to express themselves during public meetings. They can support the project by defending objectives such as energy policy renewal, industrial development, providing local jobs. They can also confront the project through arguments such as conservation of landscape, protection of the environment and the places of memory, even question the socio-economic calculations that support the development of new renewable energy industries.

Note that students who are reaching a Master’s degree at the law school of Sciences Po have also worked on a case study of the sentence of probation based on the studies of controversies in Sciences Po.

For the needs of the project, a questionnaire has been handed out at the end of the induction week and its debates on Saturday the 30th of August. Two hundred and fifty answers have been collected and they must be analysed to measure the achievement of each objectives assigned for this important event.


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