Before I formally start this speech, I would like to thank my opponent for taking the round. Any mentions of "we" in the following text refer to the first and second pro texts and "my partner" refers to the second pro text. This is meant as a script for a real-life debate, so the grammar may occasionally be a bit off as it tends to be in speech. I'm running this case now as a test and look forward to the response.
Model and Intro:
Post-secondary education: Public colleges and universities. We would pay tuition and cover required resources such as books. We would also expand on the government’s pre-existing grants to partially cover living costs for lower income students. This would only apply to programs in Canada, e.g. Canadian universities.
For my constructive case, I will first introduce our principal argumentation on the responsibility of government, then go into governmental benefits and finally benefits to the students.
Into our principal argumentation.
Higher education comes with many practical benefits that I will be discussing later in this speech, but it also enriches society in other ways. We see education as a tool to enlightenment. The knowledge gained from a university or college education gives the student the ability to think critically and the opportunity to access previously unavailable knowledge. Not only that, but the campus atmosphere contributes to this enlightenment as well. These institutions encourage and teach free thinking and critical thinking to all students as well as teach them to take part in democracy. Part of education is to impart knowledge on the student that is interesting and fulfilling to them. This liberating function of education is completed in the post-secondary atmosphere. We believe that this is therefore a fundamental right for all regardless of family income. It is a governmental responsibility to ensure that all Canadians have access to this higher education so that each individual can benefit from what this education has to offer.
I will be moving into my second constructive point, explaining benefits to students arising from free higher education.
Firstly, we see that costs for this education in the status quo are prohibitive to lower class and lower middle class students. Depending on the course, university fees are averaging at about $6000 per year and most courses take several years to complete. Furthermore, many students need to earn money to support themselves on top of tuition. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average rent for a bachelor apartment is $1350 for each month. Adding the cost of food and hydro, attending university is considerably expensive, especially in urban areas. Even taking on multiple part-time jobs often cannot pay for these high costs and working means less time to focus on learning. This is a direct economic incentive for students to not attend university, and these costs are literally prohibitive to low income students. Even if a low-income student can pay for his or her full tuition through jobs, this would drastically reduce the amount of time they have for academics and therefore impact their education. We are not talking about one part-time job here. Students must take multiple jobs in order to pay for tuition, reducing the time they have for studying and having a negative impact on the quality of their education.
We see that realistically most students will have to take on student loans to pay for higher education in the status quo and this is bad for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, they will have to pay off massive amounts of their wealth over years of their lives. This is harmful to their quality of life after graduation since they will be paying off an enormous burden from the moment they start working. This also impacts which students decide to go to school. Having this debt means that students have an incentive to not take higher education because this debt is so large. Finally, this impacts the career decisions made after graduation. Faced with the prospect of paying off debt, students will often need to take on the jobs that pay the most instead of the jobs that they would like to have and the jobs that they would be best suited to. For example, law students often think of taking on jobs as human rights lawyers or as lawyers for the homeless. Society would benefit the most and the students might be suited to these jobs. However, after graduating with a $100K in debt, most graduates must take jobs at big firms which have higher starting salaries instead of where they want to be and are needed most.
With free post-secondary education and partially covered living costs, university will be affordable to all and so not only will all students be economically better off, but more students will be able to attend college and university and focus on their education. This means that higher education will be used by more Canadians, who will be financially better off than before.
How does higher education help students? There are many lines of work that are open only to those with the certifications and knowledge coming from higher education. When more students attend these institutions, the Canadian workforce can take these jobs. These lines of work on average pay more than others, have higher job security and are in increasing demand. Studies by Statistics Canada show that post-secondary graduates on average make 30-40% more annually than individuals with only a high school diploma, because they can enter these lines of work. They also have a higher employment rate overall. All students must have the opportunity to take higher paying, more stable jobs that can support themselves and their families and higher education prepares the students with the knowledge and qualifications for these jobs. The undergraduate certification is now becoming what is the socio-economic equivalent of a high school diploma in the 1970s. While some people can succeed without a degree, the vast majority will find it the most realistic way of entering the middle class.
The second thing to note here is that free education will reduce inequality in the current generation, benefitting unprivileged students. Currently, the fees for post-secondary education help perpetuate the cycle of poverty and removing them would help less privileged students. Why? Because higher education is now the most common way to enter the middle class. With 47% of Canadians having completed a post-secondary course, it is time we make this education accessible to the less fortunate. The easiest and most common way to enter the middle class is through higher education. As I have already established, no fees means that more lower income students will be able to gain a degree and therefore enter the middle class through higher education. This ends the cycle of poverty arising from the poor being unable to afford education. Why is this important? Firstly, on a principle level, it is not fair for students to be denied the opportunity to enter the middle class because of their parents’ economic status. Secondly, it means everyone achieves their maximum potential with this education regardless of income and can end up leading better lives than they would have without the opportunity to be educated.
I now will talk about how the government and society benefit from accessible post-secondary education.
First off, when more students get jobs and earn higher incomes, the government saves money paying for welfare. Canada is a welfare state and so financial aid for the poor is a very expensive cost annually for the government. We spend 24 billion dollars every year for welfare, according to the National Council of Welfare. Instead of constantly dishing out big money to assist the poor in the short term, it would be better for the population if we addressed the root causes of this poverty. Education is clearly one of them, since being educated means better paying jobs and stability. The money saved from poverty reduction would actually cover the majority, if not the entire cost of free higher education. On a side note, it’s also inherently better for society to have more people working instead of receiving welfare. Assuming every single adult from twenty to thirty years of age studies for six years in a college or university, average costs for each would total to about two hundred million dollars in tuition. Even if this reduces the number of people requiring welfare by a fraction, this annual money saved from welfare covers the entire yearly cost of tuition for all 20-30 year olds.
Also, because more Canadians receive higher salaries arising from these professional lines of work, the federal government in the ensuing years receives higher income taxes from Canadians. This once again covers the cost of this higher education.
Why is this important? It means that we actually save money through having a free post-secondary education system, given that it generates more, better paying jobs. This money can be used for other government assistance programs or to cut taxes.
Secondly, society benefits from a higher quality of education when it is free. Why? Because universities in the status quo must often prioritize getting students to attend instead of research and teaching. The student is effectively turned into a consumer who pays for education and, following free market economics, influences what is taught. This creates what Socrates calls merchants of knowledge who sell what the students want rather than what would actually help them. In modern times, this results in what are called party schools, where institutions wanting to gain students will provide perverse incentives for them to come that are not educational whatsoever. On our side of the house, the new customer is the federal government, which acts in the best interest of education in order to reap the practical benefits of an educate population. Instead of turning students into customers, the best interests of education are served when it is the government paying for it.
Finally, we see that Canada’s workforce become more educated, given the trends of mechanization and globalism. Despite what opposition might tell you, employment in Canada is not a zero sum game. Because of the internet and the increased demand for professional jobs, Canada can actually have a higher percentage of people employed at jobs requiring degrees than there is national demand. Most jobs requiring postsecondary education are not geographically based. For example, computer programmers can work from anywhere in the world, as can scientists. As long as the necessary facilities are available, most high-level jobs can be completed by Canadians in Canada. This is not the same for a cashier or mechanic, however; these jobs cannot grow in numbers exceeding local demand. In other words, the number of postsecondary education required jobs available in Canada is not dependent on national demand so much as international demand. A highly educated workforce can attract international businesses to Canada and find jobs while maintaining their higher-than-average pay. Furthermore, we see that the number of jobs available for the uneducated is shrinking for two reasons. a) Canadians who are currently employed by natural resources extraction (that’s about 1.77 million of us according to Resources Canada) will eventually lose their jobs when the resources, such as oil and diamonds, run out. The majority of these are unskilled labour that is irreplaceable by future projects. b) As technology advances, machines are already beginning to replace jobs such as cashiers which don’t require higher education. Since postsecondary education imparts complicated skills and creativity, higher education jobs cannot be replaced by machines in the near future because they are too complex. (Think machines replacing historians and engineers.) This is important because the current generation must be able to retain their jobs for the next fifty years and compete with technology both at home and abroad. The only way to do so and protect against mechanization and dwindling natural resource supplies is to invest in higher education.
The only way for Canada to maintain employment levels is to invest in education to keep our workforce employed. This should be a priority for the government because Canada has an opportunity to compete in a global market for educated jobs in a way simply impossible for jobs that don’t require post-secondary education. By offering this for free, more Canadians will have this education and be a part of this internationally competitive workforce, which is imperative for the country’s future.
And for the reasons explained, ie the principled case for education as enrichment, the benefits to the students and the benefits to the government and society, we propose.
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Thanks once again to my opponent for participating in the debate and also for the detailed response. Please note that I'm writing this at 12:00 am so if you spot any grammar errors or lazy shortcuts in my explanations near the end I do apologize :)
I will be mixing in reconstruction of my points as well as rebuttal in the following text, following the same order as my opponent’s speech for clarity.
My opponent first makes the claim that higher education is grounded in the notion of the exclusivity of knowledge. He goes on to say that the education system results in “acculturation into dominant narratives of valued knowledge.” This is a sentiment carried on throughout the debate regarding education as a method to convey a dominant narrative of society. This is absolutely false. While this may have occurred in the past, we see that students are now constantly challenged to think critically and be involved in rigorous debate. If education really assimilated students into the dominant culture, then we wouldn’t see university students protesting for social change at a higher rate than any other social group or students in support of vastly progressive and fresh politics. University is actually a place of discussion and rigorous instruction. This is further proved by the fact that these “paywalls” for information my opponent mentions later in the debate are now opened up in the form of databases for practically all university and college students to use as they please.
The next point made is that education does not serve the needs of social justice. I have a couple responses to this. Firstly, on a factual level, indigenous peoples do not have free post-secondary education, contrary to popular belief. Because of the 2% annual funding cap, the reality is that most indigenous peoples cannot receive this education because of lack of funds. The reality is that higher education is very inaccessible to this group because of the cost. Secondly, minorities do not face “substance abuse, bullying, violence poverty and suicide” in colleges and universities. In fact, these places for the most part are safer and more culturally accepting than their hometowns. Next, by placing a goal of having a degree, institutions are really suggesting we strive to gain pre requisite knowledge to be used specifically in employment. This is not necessarily a negative thing as this means our country will be better educated. Finally, I cannot find any actual substance in this rebuttal as to why educating students and encouraging them to think critically leads to “imperialist cultural hegemony”. Taking this point at its best, all that is offered by opposition is a case for why going to university is indeed a social construct. Yes, this is the same society in which there is inequality. However, inequality and education are mutually exclusive to one another and ,we would argue, have a negative correlation instead of a positive one.
Value of education
I would like to start here with implicit refutation. The point being made is that it is the structure of education and not access to education that is to blame for inequality. Also, education is easily replaceable and therefore unnecessary.
We see that education is still very valuable to students. The allusion to university or college graduates flipping burgers is untrue for the vast majority of cases. About 60% of graduates in Canada are now working in a field exactly or similar to the field they studied in. A degree is essentially a specialization in a particular field as well as a certification. Then, my opponent makes the claim that students could replace their education with Wikipedia and the internet, rendering it obsolete. Firstly, higher education nowadays focuses a lot on discussion as opposed to lecturing. We see the rise of open ended courses and discussion times as a large trend in education. My opponent is right in saying that the system is not perfect; however, it is constantly being updated and improved to best teach the students. This cannot be replicated by reading through information on Wikipedia. Secondly, there is still a need to have trust that graduates in specialized jobs actually know what they are doing. A degree helps in this respect because it is a sign that a graduate is knowledgeable in a particular field. “I have a medical degree” is a much more reliable qualification for employers to verify than “I read a bunch of articles on the internet”. Would you like to have a Wikipedia educated surgeon perform a procedure on you or have well read but uncertified teachers educate the next generation? I agree that being qualified for a job is not synonymous with having a degree, but this is the only way for employers to be confident that employees are qualified.
As for alternative methods of education, I acknowledge their existence and validity. However, as my opponent helpfully points out, these are mostly free or very inexpensive. However, there are many lines of work that are exclusively for university graduates (and this is good thing, like doctors need to be qualified) and this is the work the motion would allow every Canadian the opportunity to try and work in.
On another note, my opponent mounts a rigorous attack on the status quo in this point. I say that even if Canada (the scope of this debate) conformed to the education system exactly as he envisions it, the rest of the world would certainly not follow. Think about the result. Canadians not taking degrees, which are universal certifications of knowledge. Even if this entire point still stands, Canadians would still need degrees because Canada still needs jobs from international business and Canadians will want to be recognized for their academic achievement (e.g. if one is qualified to practice engineering) if they ever move out of the country. By offering the courses that grant these degrees for free, students will have a better chance to compete in a globalised job market.
As for the increase in price, public institutions can easily be regulated to avoid price gouging as occurs in the status quo when the government subsidizes any service. Public institutions are in fact already regulated to this extent in the status quo.
My response to this is that an educated society would be able and willing to pay for free education. We are not really taking the burden of payment off of students and on to working families and enterprises as the opposition claims. After graduating, the overwhelming majority of college/university educated Canadians work and/or become entrepreneurs. We are in reality shifting the burden of immediate payment for education to the people actually working and therefore having money to contribute. These students receiving free education will pay this sum back entirely and in excess once they start working. What is actually occurring is that students pay for the ensuing generation’s education when they have money working in their specialized career.
What is also interesting is my opponent’s desire to shift this funding to causes like social security. He criticizes free education as a meaningless redistribution of wealth, yet he wishes to perform the exact same thing through other government programs.
As for student loans, the fact that students are forced to take these loans in the first place is not ideal. I have already explained the negative impacts of student loans. The only response you get out of opposition is that this is the natural repercussion of taking a loan. This is true, but the whole idea of paying for education before one can make money is bizarre. Avoiding student loans would also encourage more spending and therefore contributions to the economy. Graduates must often consume well below their means because of these loans while what would be ideal for business is if they could spend larger, more reasonable amounts of money. By making graduates pay off large debt with interest, the system is punishing students for wanting knowledge and a way to get ahead in life.
The first point made is once again about education being obsolete when it is said that workplaces are becoming more inquiry based. The University of Waterloo (Canadian) is a very good university for mathematics and technologies (computer science and the like). This is one of the few universities that Google handpicks paid interns from. Google is one of the most inquiry-based corporate cultures on the planet, yet even they see the value in higher education. To employers, it is still important that employees have pre-requisite knowledge and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Next, my opponent makes the claim that jobs cannot be universally higher paying. Here are some basic truths.
There are countries that have a higher GDP per capita than others. Inflation doesn’t make everyone poor in these countries. Average national income can grow and shrink against that of another nation. Jobs are becoming less geographically fixed. In Ottawa, there is a booming high tech industry that produces way more specialized products that could ever be consumed in the city (or even nation). These products are sold internationally. In theory, Canada could become a larger Ottawa. Employers would be attracted by the educated workforce and employ many educated people. In this case, Canada’s wealth proportional to other countries would increase, in part because of taxes paid to the government from employers and in part from the influx of higher paying jobs. The supply of people with a given degree internationally is still almost the same, since Canada is such a small country population-wise. And, if unemployment is one the rise as my opponent informs us, we will still have people to clean the toilets!
Quality of education
This is essentially the converse of the argument I make under the benefits to society point in my first speech. My opponent is saying that the quality of education will decrease because the government is now the consumer.
With free education in public colleges and universities, the government cannot simply cut funding for universities it does not like. If the institutions are guaranteed funding, the government does not have a great influence over material taught. We see that the power of the consumer to dictate the functionality of a given product is dependant on the decision making ability of the consumer to purchase or not purchase a give product. The same is true for education. If the government has to pay for the education anyways, it has no control over what material is being taught and so the universities will finally have autonomy over the material best for students. The reason that universities are better decision makers than individual students in the status quo is because the universities have the incentive of prestige to teach well. Rankings drive universities to perform well, yet many students are not so driven. I have already explained why students being consumers of education is generally a bad idea. Governments are not in reality the “consumers” under the model. Rather, there are no consumers because universities can make their own decisions free of economic need for students to attend.
Conversely, we see that exactly what my opponent describes occurs in the status quo. The government provide funding for specific programs and groups in order to benefit the administration. Certain courses can sometimes be paid for in part by the government and so the government in the status quo has much more influence over higher education than it does under my side of the debate.
For the reasons above and in my previous text, the motion stands.
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Kia ora! I'd like to thank my opponent for continuing his case. To the audience, I remind you that this will be the final round of substantive - no additional argumentation will follow this speech. I'll focus on the key areas of continuing clash, while mindful of the fact it appears my opponent has not engaged with some of my material. Slowly this should help bring the debate to a close based on where we have common ground and where we disagree.
So then the question becomes what is the value which is set against the formidable public cost of my opponent's plan? If the value is sharing knowledge, then what knowledge do we value? Should we pay for bits of paper or pay for learning? If the latter, why is the money going to universities and not the students? On a cultural level I challenge all those judging and reading this debate to consider carefully the real value of the social order that mandates paying vast sums of money to certain elites in society to enter certain professions. As a government this does not need to be the case. We do not need to take for granted the perverse social contract of education, and this empowers us to replace that discourse with something better serving the needs of social justice. Or we can do as my opponent suggests and entrench these norms, and indeed force society to pay to support them. In the immediate term the least we can do is give people the choice - I am not giving a counter-model per se. I am simply suggesting that the education system is really bad and that this house shouldn't support it by giving it money.
My opponent notes that the rest of the world may not follow suit. This is always the case with social justice. Giving gay people the right to marry doesn't mean other countries recognize those marriages. The moral imperative is for government to do the right thing, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing. Say every other country tortured people, would that fact in and of itself make it moral for Canada to do the same? I would suggest not. However, most other countries do not currently provide free secondary education for all students, so this doesn't impact anyway. If I may be so bold, I might suggest that there are many countries with varying cultural norms and businesses operate across them just fine even notwithstanding (and indeed often because of) globalization.
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Crux/ reply speech, split into themes below:
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I thank my opponent for an exciting debate. Today I began with a whakatauki, asking what the most valuable thing in the world was, and responding that it was people. I am here to celebrate our diversity, our culture and our social institutions. My opponent's model is all about optimizing society to ensure his concept of economic competitiveness. I have only two key questions to close the debate.
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