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THW provide free post-secondary education for all students in Canada.

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3 points
t_raot_rao (PRO)
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.

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-12 04:49:01
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
Kia ora tatou, ko Lars toku ingoa, no Aotearoa ahau, no reira, tena koutou katoa! He aha te mea nui ki tenei ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the debate. To my opponent, thank you for engaging me and for your case. Today I will follow my opponent's lead in presenting my case more like a verbal speech compared to my usual style. However, I will provide some labels for people's convenience.

In this debate I wish to begin by extending my opponent's principle to social justice, and substantively consider the implications of this for teaching at a post-secondary level. I will then answer the contentions put forward by my opponent in terms of cost, achievement, and macroeconomic impacts.


Have you ever wondered why lectures exist? It is because professors were once the only people able to access higher knowledge. Information was hidden away in libraries that were strictly off-limits to undergraduates and certainly the general public. So professors would read the studies, and lecture to students so they students didn't have to get into those libraries. Whether we like it or not, the origins of our western liberal democratic educational system are firmly grounded in many elements of the Gnostic Christian tradition. Whereas the monks seek religious conversion, teachers seek acculturation into dominant narratives of "valued" knowledge.

Don't believe my opponent's rosy picture of education as a politically neutral means of "getting ahead." Indigenous First Nation peoples of Canada have had "free" post-secondary education for decades and they're among the least-ahead ethnic groups in the country. Far from being a means to get ahead, schools are places where children of these minority communities meet substance abuse, bullying, violence, poverty and suicide. And their economic outcomes are, independently of the education system, equally limited. Nor are these experiences limited to Canada - as recently as the late 70s, Australia still officially recognized Aboriginal peoples only as animals, not human beings. Inequalities just pervade all of Canadian society according to socially constructed notions of race, class, sexuality, gender, and disability. Why is it that, over a century since most of Canada gave women the right to vote, the gender wage gap is still so significant? Why is it that we still talk about disability as though it is a biological deficit, and why do we cling to the antiquated idea that some people are "abnormal" because of their deviant sexuality, genderqueer identity etc? Why is race, which has no biological basis, even still a thing?

Make no mistake, these are issues of education. From the start education has been complicit in creating unequal power relationships to legitimize state discourse and demonstrate imperialist cultural hegemony. This has come at costs not just to the lives and cultures of its people, but the natural environment as well. It is the reality of this enlightenment education offers. Universities further assimilate this knowledge by creating the illusion that only through a tertiary degree does one attain some hidden knowledge to improve your community and life, and that students should be ranked according to how well they respond to the university's idea of a model student. These values are set by the dominant culture through government standards and so-called professors, usually with little student input.

Rather than accepting education as an absolute good as my opponent has framed it, I'd like to challenge their model that education must serve the needs of social justice. Rather than where my opponent has placed the responsibility on students to use education to provide social justice, I place the burden on the education system itself, as the agent of reproducing cultural norms, beliefs and values in society, to provide social justice. By social justice I mean providing equitable outcomes for the environment, community, family and identity of every learner.

Value of Education

Under the status quo, the education system has proven itself an abject failure at providing these outcomes, and the class divide alluded to by my opponent proves it. Education has taught people that they have to go to university, and education has set people up for lives where barely anyone can afford it. Student debt is astronomical and for what? So students can flaunt their little pieces of paper like status symbols, throw silly black caps up in the air for photographs, and then spend the rest of their lives flipping burgers at McDonalds anyway? Because that's what's actually happening right now in education. What does this tell learners about their identity? Their families or status within society? If we accept right now that the top 1% of Canadians live very well while the rest have blue and white collar jobs, how is it that Canada has the so-called highest level of tertiary educational attainment in the OECD - and in fact, on the whole of planet earth! - yet still all these inequalities?

The main reason is that education itself has been commodified by a neoliberal culture of performance and assessment. Post-secondary education is an enterprise literally generating tens of billions of dollars for the Canadian economy. People literally migrate to Canada specifically to get their little pieces of paper there, as records they've been learning stuff according to Canadian dominant cultural values. And there is an international power dynamic, where countries compete for the value of post-secondary education.

Funding this system has a number of direct harms. First it further legitimizes a broken system that is already failing Canada. If any country in the world need be concerned about tertiary educational attainment, it is not Canada. Rather the model is a distraction from the real issues of class present in the structure of education, not access to it. Canada has a high-quality education system, but it is not equitable. And the biggest problem with the system is the emphasis on needing these ever-increasing standards to be a good, useful and even - to use my opponent's term - democratic citizen. How pernicious is it to use discourse to exclude those without degrees from democracy?

So I agree in principle that students should not be spending their own economic capital on things holding relatively little value to them. I disagree that injecting more taxpayer dollars into perpetuating the problem is the answer. If we accept education is at least contributing to, if not outright causing, the problems of inequality in society then clearly the model will only serve to exacerbate the harms that Canada is already experiencing. The status quo is the outcome of an education system. Instead the problem is the cultural narrative that ever-higher and higher education is "the answer" to solve all problems of inequality in society, coupled with education being totally about sorting people according to norms constructed by an unequal society for the purposes of reproducing that society in future.

Here's a disheartening and disturbing truth that many tertiary students in Canada will not want to hear: tertiary qualification won't solve your problems. It won't solve your family's problems or your community. It certainly won't solve the problems of your country. Your little piece of paper is just a cultural artifact, worth in relative terms about the same as a little league trophy for your junior ice hockey match (at least, I assume that's a thing in Canada). The reality is that every single thing your lecturers told you, you could probably have found out online for free. In fact you could probably read most of it on Wikipedia alone. Yes, there is already such a thing as free post-secondary education in Canada.

Libraries are free now, so there is no need for lectures. Yes, I am aware some academic articles remain behind paywalls, but overall there has never been a time when knowledge has been so freely available. That is why universities now see themselves as under threat. They know their expensive degrees are losing value and fast, which coupled with a volatile economy, is why they urgently need sources of income. That's not even for necessarily negative purposes either, since research for important things is expensive and important. The sham of these degrees has always been a ponzi scheme to generate money through enculturation, taking money from more and more students to fund a limited amount of research. That's why universities allow more students in every year than they can possibly pass, let alone find jobs for!

So in this quest for money they turn to the taxpayer and hope that Canadian citizens accept education as necessarily positive. I implore you - money taken from the taxpayer is not more wisely spent than money taken from the student. Using taxpayers as an incentive to raise more and more money for the institution of a broken system that's creating inequality will just result in more and more inequality off the backs of the middle class, who bear the heaviest tax burden. It won't produce all these educated supermen who will reform Canada, any more than Canada is being reformed right now. If you accept the status quo has a problem, like both sides agree in this debate, be sure you're not bankrolling the problem.

My opponent's particular model is especially pernicious in its valuation of particular kinds of post secondary education. Vocational schools, for example, are specifically not covered, yet teach incredibly valuable skills. More education is generally unpaid and voluntary. If a business accepts a young and willing cadet to train them up from the bottom, is that not a valuable form of education society should acknowledge? Why all this focus on one particular form of learning? Earlier I mentioned flipping burgers as the outcome of many degrees, yet plenty of burger-flippers have climbed the career ladder within the retail service profession. It is perfectly possible to have a fantastic education without going to university and I think it's a total shame we don't recognize that.

Immediately we think there will be a two practical impacts as well as these broad philosophical impacts. First, universities will hike their prices, further exacerbating these class differences. As the price is now rendered relatively invisible to students, universities have no incentive to provide things at a reasonable cost. Government cannot deny students education in these programs either under pro's model. Second, we think it provides perverse incentives for government to further control curriculum and self-legitimisation in a similar way to what already happens with research grants, governments giving more grants for things relevant to government policy.


People in some other nations must scoff at the paltry prices my opponent lists for education in Canada. That's actually because Canadian public education is already heavily subsidised by the government. Between students and government, the market for tertiary education in Canada is massive, with billions upon billions at stake, and that's not even counting the majority of the expenses faced by tertiary students, but just the sector itself. As my opponent rightly identifies, students pay for housing, food, transport and all kinds of other expenses that are often hard to keep up with even if the students can work.

Of course the actual numbers involved can be easily mooted, but I gladly accept there is a significant financial burden to be borne by students. Instead my opponent wants to take that money from enterprises and working families. It's still a big cost. And yeah if you want a nice pad all to yourself in downtown Toronto, expect to pay money, because that's scarcity in action. If people value living that closely, demand is high for land, supply is inherently limited, price goes up, simple economics. That's land that's not being used to house somebody who actually works in Toronto now, and who has to pay so somebody else can study in it. In fact this only exacerbates inequality, since without having to pay course fees, rich kids have more money to spend on getting the nicest pads in town. More money chasing limited goods? Again, it's simple economics - the price goes up.

Even if you don't accept that universities cause or contribute to inequality, be very wary of anyone who tells you the solution to any given problem is government funding. In and of itself, government funding is a means of redistributing wealth. Taking money, in this case, from ordinary everyday Canadians and to this multi-billion dollar industry. Isn't it much better to put it in the pockets of those who need it, our poor and most vulnerable? If I were Canadian I would much rather pay social security, than provide free post-secondary education. In the meantime, focus on the real issues, like breaking down the barriers that prevent those of lower class in society from getting ahead. Like educational discourses.

Then he said student loans already exist to solve this problem. I agree. He framed this as a negative, though, because you need to pay them back, and that this can impact career choices. Duh, that's the definition of a loan. If you get a home loan that can impact your choices. Get a loan to buy a car, can impact on you. Borrow $10 from your bro to get a snack from the local shop, you've got to pay it back and that could compromise your relationship. That doesn't imply it's the government's onus to cover every single loan. Instead, loans provide lines of credit which help to alleviate hard times. If that leads students to more socially validated and socially valuable (as expressed through income) career paths, and they see that as bad, then I'd wonder why those students chose to get an expensive socially validated piece of paper in the first place. Striving after a top job has exactly the same incentives as striving after a top degree. I think my opponent's example of law holds particular irony in this respect, since the average lay person in society tends to think of lawyers in a very positivist, perennial framework of "ultimate power." Even if this were not the case, I understand there are income thresholds applied to most Canadian student loans, entirely removing the issue of repayments while on a low income, and can also request additional government support for a personal repayment plan. Later, he goes on to say post-secondary graduates get heaps and heaps of additional income. You can't both claim education is super expensive and that people have a super improved ability to pay for it, while maintaining a problematical model of the context.

Just to be clear - funding education more does not imply higher graduation rates, nor does it imply money will magically flow into the economy. There's a limited money supply and its distribution will always be relative, especially in a globalized economy. It is impossible for everyone to be wealthy, because the word itself is relative. Not everyone can own a bachelor pad in Toronto because there are only so many bachelor pads available in Toronto. And so on. Economic problems are virtually never completely solved by throwing money at them.


I agree that many lines of work like students who come to them from certain types of institutions. Unlike my opponent, I challenge whether this is a good thing. As knowledge becomes more accessible, workplaces are becoming more inquiry-based anyway. Specific curricula are losing their relevance, replaced by the skill of actually being able to find information and make connections. Big Data is a particularly powerful trend in the sciences, where it has opened up entirely new fields of scientific investigation. Workplaces are increasingly adapting to this trend and, despite opposition from professional bodies, will continue to increasingly devalue whether students have touched this "hidden secret" knowledge of university education.

Jobs cannot be universally higher paying unless money suddenly magically pops into existence, in which case inflation would immediately made that additional money worthless. Additionally, if everyone in Canada now became lawyers and doctors, who would clean the toilets? It is true that the status of a degree has become so acculturated that it can have an effect on income, but this is not universally distributed, and is skewed by the fact lower class people are less likely to have high expectations under the status quo, thanks again to the wonderful education system. Universities maintain a sense of prestige after all, as their unique forms of privileged knowledge. I suspect the median would be significantly less striking than the average owing to these factors. Nonetheless, just because society does value certain knowledge does not imply this is desirable. Society also pays women significantly less than men - does this mean governments should fund gender reassignment surgery for women to become men? Probably not a good plan, nor would it actually result in challenging the root causes of social stigma.

For all that my opponent wanted to talk about the poverty cycle he provided scant evidence that it actually exists. The causes of poverty are much more complex than some simplistic circular flow, and unless you understand how it works, you can't challenge it. On this side of the house, we reject that poverty is caused by a lack of little bits of paper. Instead it is the product of systemic cultural neglect, abuse and violence imposed by the dominant culture. By making degrees free, you devalue degrees and normalize the kinds of discourses they impose to further subjugate these marginalized groups. We see that as profoundly immoral and not conducive to raising the standard of achievement on an individual or national level.


I consider this the most minor point of the debate as it largely consists of flow-on impacts from the previous arguments.

My opponent begins by problematising welfare. I respectfully disagree, first in that economically the model doesn't add up. The tertiary sector is roughly equivalent in size to the entire welfare system put together. Second, here the implication is that welfare is negative. Indeed that our economy allows us to not work should we be down on our luck is a great positive. With technology automating more processes, work is becoming increasingly irrelevant for human society, providing people with more autonomy and a reduced challenge of economic equity. Third, more degrees doesn't magically create more jobs. Pro has not shown any causal link at all between having more degrees and people actually being able to move into those lines of work. It is not enough to show the average graduate earns more under the status quo when many graduates are on welfare. To apply this to the ageist segregationist rhetoric of "20-30 year olds" speaks to the true intentions behind my opponent's plan - to segregate, subjugate and control the people of Canada according to the whims of government bureaucrats, and to make the Canadian people pay for this system.

On our side of the house, we reject governments as neutral consumers. While we agree polarized universities are bad, and the free market has problems, at least it allows for a diversity. If government is the consumer, that's representing one single viewpoint - that of the dominant culture. The government could, after all, wipe out economic disparities right now by passing a law for communist-style redistribution. Would that be good? Personally, I'd say no, but the point is that this is a cultural judgement. Rather we value a marketplace of ideas with robust debate and discussion this generates. We believe that universities, too, can recognize the value of this and capitalize on it in attracting students across the political spectrum, and designing courses that are inclusive of many views.

Finally, I agree employment is not a zero-sum game. Relative to population, the pool of work available has shrunk significantly over the past century. Job losses, especially in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, have been huge globally. That is not to say that the remaining jobs, especially in service industries, automatically require bits of paper to be done right. I say this as somebody who ran a company for four years making websites for global clients, despite not having any formal professional or academic background in IT or programming of any sort. With the rise of outsourcing, such business faces stiff competition from countries with significantly lower rents for mid-town bachelor pads. Mechanization is not a threat because unemployment is not a bad thing, but even if it was, universities are not the only pathway to achieving competitive advantage.

For all these reasons, the moot is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-14 11:25:00
| Speak Round
t_raot_rao (PRO)

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.

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-17 05:17:18
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
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.

My opponent concedes that education must serve the needs of social justice. All his responses here are not principle responses. Instead he argues that education already serves the needs of social justice, which is a practical impact (and will be dealt with later). I would have expected him to defend a little more strongly his line that education is necessarily a social good, but no matter, my principle impact stands.

Value of Education
In the first round, I explained that education is a form of assimilation into the dominant culture, to control people and put them in their place. It does this by pretending you need to go through university (and pay money) to learn some secret information - the very notion of a degree is premised on knowledge being exclusive. You pay to gain that secret knowledge and get a piece of paper to prove it. As my opponent later concedes, degrees show one is knowledgeable in a certain subject (it's on the record, scroll up to check for yourself). That universities monopolize the provision of knowledge is dangerous and a by-product of colonialism.

One case in point is the funding cap pro mentions for indigenous people. This is not an accident. It exists specifically to deny access to anyone the government doesn't like. The government does not represent all people - it represents the dominant culture. How can a university really think critically when my opponent has already conceded vast sections of the population cannot get access even when the government promises it? How can there be rigorous debate when he has already conceded universities are increasingly partisan? Most importantly, does that serve the needs of social justice?

My opponent claims university students are more likely to protest for social change compared to other people. If they are protesting for a cause, that is not to say they are doing so because they went to university. Indeed it's a classic case of correlation not causation, where those with social change on their mind are more likely to buy into this narrative that they need this secret formula for success that only universities can provide. Likewise many buy into the culture of protest without actually believing in the cause, artificially inflating the numbers. The occupy movement provides a case study of both effects. He even suggested inequality and education are mutually exclusive, despite admitting forms of inequality (ie deficit discourse) have been issues in education "in the past." Which is damn obvious - if the education system does not allow girls to learn, how does it expect girls to get an education?

For the record I am a big fan of governments spending money when that money is well spent. If it is used to indoctrinate and assimilate people into the government's notion of a "model" student then I question that. If it is used to provide relief to those members of society who are sick, elderly, young etc, then of course I support it. In my view, social security serves a different end to giving universities hand-outs. Social security empowers those in society who need assistance. University handouts empower universities and the sort of privileged knowledge they provide.

I agree that an indoctrinated society would be willing to pay for more indoctrination. Education teaches us to pay for education - very convenient, right? But is this an ideal outcome? Does it serve the needs of social justice? These are the silences of my opponent's case. At what cost do we support an education system that has these harms, and who should pay for it - those who accept these culturally-relative narratives, or those who do not? In the case of First Nations people this is particularly harmful, as university is definitely not part of their heritage. Forcing them to go to these places to get a job, and even pay to support it as members of the general public, is one of the great tragedies of the modern era. I also do strongly feel like people simply don't want to pay for education, exactly like students don't want to pay. They also don't have to, it's a cultural imposition saying that they do. 

I agree higher education is bizarre. Reforming it does not mean taking money from everyone in society, but recognizing these problems. I am reminded of our former prime minister, once asked in a debate how he planned to deal with assaults taking place in schools. His answer? That the culture needed to change, not government policy. Right now, globally, we have a huge cultural problem where we see some roles as being more valuable than others. This is why a medical degree costs so much while my little degree in marketing and management was relatively inexpensive. At the core of this discussion is the extent to which degrees are socially valuable. We don't need lectures. People can sit exams for free, print their own paper, and usually they end up renting their own silly hat to throw in the air anyway. Since with a university it's close to a coin toss to see if the degree will hold any professional relevance, it's hard to imagine three unemployed years of hard work and dedication to a profession without the degree, having a significantly worse payoff. Yet somehow my opponent has pointed out that it does. Is that fair? Does it accurately reflect our educational values? Perhaps what we need is a shift in our thinking, not our policy. This same response also applies to loans.

Bear in mind that absolutely nobody's principle in this debate is economic efficiency. That might possibly be a value you could run in a debate like this, but it's pretty clear at this point the most important thing we value is social justice. GDP may grow as a result of that, but even if it doesn't, our responsibility is first and foremost to create a socially just Canada. Recognize also that my opponent is conflating GDP for GNI. My point was that you can't just print this money - it has to come from somewhere. In this case I thought it was a shame my opponent didn't even mention the single biggest stakeholders in this debate, probably because he wants to rob them blind to pay for his model. Having an educated workforce is a sure recipe for brain drain if you also want to tax them to death.

My opponent only really has one response to achievement, and that's that in the modern culture, some workplaces still adhere to unreliable metrics for employee performance, like what school they went to. As anyone who's ever met a jerk who went to a rich school will tell you, going to a nice school doesn't make you a nice person. It doesn't make you a smart person. It doesn't make you strong or pretty or otherwise special. It's just another set of experiences.

My opponent admits almost half of all graduates end up working in an entirely different career under the status quo. That means a degree has zero professional value to a good number of people. For others, one wonders if they could not have acquired the same skills without a degree. There is certainly a role in professional practice, but there is no reason why universities should be the ones to provide it. Prior to the liberal democratic model of education, people honed their crafts in guilds or apprenticeships. This model still exists in many professions. Many countries are moving in this direction - to give a case in point, the Teach First movement is tackling educational inequality by removing the requirement to have a teaching degree. In the UK, to give just one example, this has helped millions of children get a quality education. Furthermore, employers aren't looking to verify knowledge. They are after skills, attitudes and dispositions - the whole concept of a knowledge economy died with the internet, where everyone can immediately access any knowledge they know how to find. I've seen doctors literally copy-paste diagnoses from WebMD and they're not even wrong to do so - it's a useful tool to consider the full scope of conditions they might see in their community, in addition to being more scrutinized and thus less error-prone.

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.

Quality of Education
My opponent drops what I labelled the macroeconomic impact and rather "flips" it by no longer focusing on the macroeconomy and instead focusing on what to me sounds an awful lot like achievement. In any case, I assume he concedes the point. It's still the most minor point in the debate. Instead he argues that government are particularly neutral consumers. At the same time he agrees governments have vested interests in particular kinds of knowledge under the status quo. These interests do not disappear with the model - they remain and are exercised in much more subtle ways. Similar to how we value doctors above garbage collectors socially.

There are means to cut courses other than financial. Rather the concern was that knowledge is valued by the government according to the government's interest, including the value of university itself. Albert Einstein came out of a polytechnic institute, not a university - yet which usually gets more government funding? This is particularly pernicious because my opponent's model limits post-secondary education purely to universities. Why? Because my opponent doesn't value knowledge other than that secret only the universities provide. It's that gnostic model I keep coming back to, so university graduates pat themselves on the back for being "better" than the rest of society. The fact that university graduates are actually just normal human beings who are rarely much more intelligent than other human beings is one of the worst kept secrets in education. Yet everyone still loves getting degrees? That's the power of culture.

As for the prestige of a university, if universities are passing students who are not driven, how does that bolster their prestige? Clearly this is at odds with the university's primary incentive as a business, to turn over a profit for its shareholders. So universities take in more students than they can pass. Rankings would be irrelevant to universities were they not marketing tools. And who ranks universities? And by what standards? Is it any coincidence that top-ranked universities are almost always the same institutions? Of course not - universities are ranked according to how much they conform to a globalist cultural imperialist agenda. The very idea of objective ranking implies there is a "correct" way to educate. Much like the idea that there is a "correct" way to work, this idea has no known factual basis. It is conjecture, and dangerous at that, because it is expensive, segregationist and assimilatory. So under both the status quo and my opponent's model, student buy-in is a prerequisite to university. It's also disingenuous to suggest that governments have no economic need for students to attend, yet also claiming they do all this amazing work for the economy.

The moot is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-20 03:18:41
| Speak Round
t_raot_rao (PRO)
Crux/ reply speech, split into themes below:

Is a university education/degree an outcome governments should aim for?  

This was perhaps the most contentious theme in the debate. My opponent concedes that, under side proposition, degrees will be more accessible for a greater number of people. What the debate really boils down to is whether a degree itself is an inherently good thing to have. I start this debate off by explaining why higher education brings many benefits other than degrees, such as enrichment, critical thinking, responsibility etc. My opponent ignores this point completely through the rest of the debate, even though this is in reality a significant part of my principled case. Even if we restrict ourselves only to degrees, the reason I still win on this point is that I have proved why degrees hold practical benefits to students. My opponent runs a principled case in saying that degrees are a neoliberal symbol for exclusivity of knowledge. However, all that he mentions occurs under the status quo and lacks explanation as to how making university and college free would make this worse than he thinks it already is. My principled response to this is also only refuted on one level. I say that it is only just that all have access to the most common method of entering the middle class; my opponent in response says that it shouldn't be the way to enter the middle class. My opponent, judges should recall, is defending our status quo. On proposition I make the case for equal access to education and the main response is merely that the education itself is flawed. My opponent is right in saying that Canada is the most educated country in the world. All that this motion would really change in this theme is the number of people able to attain a degree regardless of their parents' money. My opponent fulfills one part of his burden of proof by showing why degrees are not necessarily good (which is fairly refuted), but ignore the other part: why does his side of the house eradicate these issues and why is the opportunity to receive a degree worse than not receiving one? He does not explore the impacts of this "cultural indoctrination" (or prove it, for that matter) nearly enough to win this theme. As I point out in my last speech, if students are getting indoctrinated, then they really shouldn't be protesting for social change on a regular basis. Even if education is not the reason for these challenges to the status quo, isn't it prove enough that the students are not getting influenced into inaction by universities? 

Is mass education economically valuable?  

In this theme, I focus on the economic benefits to the society as a whole. Both cases rest on a few premises. Firstly, that an educated workforce would attract more income. I say that this is entirely valid and probable since an educated workforce can attract more higher paying, specialized jobs. My opponent's only issue with this is that there would be no one to clean the toilets. I engage with this on a practical basis by saying that if there is a low supply of these jobs, demand will increase, driving up pay and incentivizing people to take these jobs. Think about what my opponent suggests here. He is really saying that the government should be actively involved in making sure some people are uneducated enough to take the low paying jobs. I say that this will happen naturally, even with a free education. Secondly, that the taxation of the work force for education is immoral. We focus here on the fact that the students are really paying for their education later on in life. I spin this is a positive light in the sense that they are really just paying it back for their education through taxes. It is not bizzare that we pay for an education after we get jobs because of that education. Thirdly, that inflation would make the whole thing a zero-sum game. This is also entirely untrue. Countries can be richer than others without inflating reducing their wealth. I concede that inflation will have slight effect on costs, but overall Canada will still have more wealth overall with higher paying jobs and specialized industry.

What impact will this have on the education system?

This theme was carried out in both rounds as a sort of peripheral issue, but it is still an important thing to consider. My opponent and I agree that having everyone receive a bad education is worse than the status quo. It is therefore my opponent's burden to prove why the wuality of education will decrease. I start this by saying that students as consumers of education often make demands in conflict with the purpose of education. This point in its entirety still stands. My opponent's response to it was simply that government would be a worse purchaser of education. If the government had to fund public colleges and universities regardless of their decisions, the government would be in no place to dictate the sort of education received by students. The universities, with unconditional government funding, finally become the controllers of their own teaching. The only response, which partly deals with this is that governments could give less funding to certain colleges or universities, but this becomes more a technicality of the model than a point in direct refutation. In fact, note that all of his impacts occur in the status quo because government has the power of subsidy and denial of subsidy for all courses, indeed acting as a consumer in that sense. The government has more power over education under his side than mine.

And for those reasons, I propose. Thanks once again to my opponent for the debate so far and thanks to the viewers and judges in advance. This has been an interesting three rounds and I can't wait to read my opponent's crux to close the debate. 

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-23 02:57:09
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
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.

I'd like to remind judges that in a model debate, the question before judges is not whose model is better. It's whether the affirmative's model is good. If neither side, for example, presented a desirable outcome, then I still win the debate. Pro needed to prove to you post-secondary education should be free for all students in Canada.

What is social justice?
Nobody contested that the state has an important role in providing for social justice. My opponent and I have very different ideas of what this looks like, however. My narrative has been a government for all people, that supports the undoing of centuries of historical injustice and overthrowing of social cultures that entrench unequal power dynamics. My opponent believes social justice is best served by shifting money around the economy from regular taxpayers to universities, allowing everyone to get pieces of paper that might help them get ahead in society.

Pro's key rebuttal to my line was it wasn't realistic - governments just have to live with the cards they're dealt, google won't hire Canadians, end of story. However, I told you that governments can shift society through policy, and that governments should act in a way consistent with social justice even if society doesn't. We had little engagement to this issue. However, my opponent's case has failed to gain any traction. I've explained degrees have no value anyway, would have even less value if more people have them, would cause inflation in other sectors of the economy making degrees still less affordable, and would acculturate as well as commoditize people. That's many more impacts than just "access to education." Con needed to show why, in spite of all these externalities, higher education promoted social justice, which we agreed meant "providing equitable outcomes for the environment, community, family and identity of every learner". He certainly showed how it would produce more equal outcomes but certainly not more equitable. Every problem my opponent thinks education will solve is caused by the education system

What are the externalities of education?
As I mentioned in the previous question, I noted lots. Con argued incomes would rise. My response was that this was economically absurd, companies always have a limited hiring pool and money doesn't magically come into the economy from nowhere. If it did, then rising incomes means rising prices. Given the emphasis pro placed on economics he seemed completely unwilling to grapple with the idea of inflation - his response about some countries being richer was also refuted: see my analysis that GDP doesn't necessarily correlate to national median income etc - it's all about resources, technology and distribution, not pieces of paper. The toilet thing was only a one-sentence analogy for limited hiring pools given that pro seemed to assume everyone would graduate as lawyers and doctors, and my opponent has assumed my entire case rests on it. Nonetheless he has failed to show why higher wages means a higher standard of living. He said taxes are better than loans. Both ways people pay it back later in life. He does not show the social justice in making uneducated people pay for the education of the elite. He also didn't show why economic efficiency was a worthwhile goal at all.

With respect to every externality I raised - and I raised dozens - my opponent is silent. He simply could not show either that education has a great positive impact, nor contend with my negative impacts.

Ladies and gentlemen, education is for life. It costs nothing to learn something and you can do it for free right now. Maybe you've learnt something by seeing this debate. Never believe that you need to learn the secret to life. It doesn't exist. There's no secret to science or the arts or business or even medicine. It's all just ideas you can read in books or see in a TED talk. Never believe that knowledge is secret and exclusive. Free universities may seem tempting but they are not the answer.

The resolution is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2017-02-26 02:04:53
| Speak Round

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Oh so that's what reply speeches are! Makes sense now...

I will be posting in the next few hours. Sorry for the wait and thanks for taking the debate. :)
Posted 2017-02-11 16:45:37
Well I figure since others won't take it... I might as well haha.

Small note: "cruxes" are very similar to what are called "reply speeches" in this part of the world. Order-reversed and half the speaking time, point is to provide a short "biased judgement" summary of why you've won the debate. You can use reply speeches in the debate setup by showing advanced options. Just a tip in case you didn't know :)
Posted 2017-02-10 09:56:29
THW stands for "this house would". It means that the government side must argue for free-secondary education.
Posted 2017-02-08 18:09:21
What is THW ?
Posted 2017-02-07 19:41:47
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2017-02-26 04:22:04
PetasosJudge: Petasos
Win awarded to: admin
I would like to congratulate both t_rao and admin for a match well fought. Both sides presented such convincing and intelligent arguments that I had to think long and hard before reaching a decision. My apologies t_rao, but I find myself inclined to award points to admin. Instead of any specific arguments or points that swayed my vote, I focused on the general ideas presented. In the end, however, most if not all of admin's counter-arguments were superiorly convincing than t_rao's.
1 user rated this judgement as good
1 comment on this judgement
Thanks for the decision! Considering that I'm going to be debating this is real life pretty soon in a tournament, any specific arguments that I can improve on?
Posted 2017-02-26 21:36:29

Rules of the debate

  • Text debate
  • Individual debate
  • 3 rounds
  • No length restrictions
  • No reply speeches
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  • Forfeiting rounds means forfeiting the debate
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  • Time to post: 3 days
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Third speeches are cruxes (split the debate into themes and provide a biased summary to show why you win). First and second speeches are constructive/rebuttal.