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Band, Orchestra, and Theatre should not be given Varsity Letters

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/14/2016 Category: Arts
Updated: 4 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 268 times Debate No: 92716
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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The presentation of varsity letters of band, orchestra, and theatre degrade the meaning of the award. As a letterman in two sports, I can talk about the sweat, blood, and even tears I have contributed to the success of my teams, the anguish of practice hours on end, and the injuries that we have all worked hard to avoid or to overcome. I can reference every time I was wheezing to try and keep up with the team when I was out of shape, or the burning of my arms and legs during the horrendous workouts of the offseason. I remember every single time I was screamed at by a coach to give more, work harder, or to not put out. Those are all reasons why you EARN a varsity letter. It is NOT compensation for your tumult, but an award for diligence and skill.

I'm not coming into this argument with just one side, either. I am a participant of my High School orchestra, and I enjoy the people and music in the class, no ifs or buts....BUT because it is a competitive activity in the long run, the participants receive a varsity letter during their sophomore year, regardless of other awards or behavior. Absurd. I believe that they should receive a simple certificate that can go on a resume, because to get an honor of an award that prestigious is an insult to all of those who have given all of their physical strength to perform well in their sport. The performing arts people do relatively nothing to Athletes. Sure, they devote time to practice and perform to the best of their ability, but so do we. In the long run, we run the risk of death to do so.


I will be contending that band, orchestra and theater students should be allowed to receive Varsity letters, provided they meet whatever criteria is set up in order for that to happen. In other words, I am arguing against the idea that a student who does "only band" should never receive a Varsity letter.

The Unimportance of Varsity Letters

The opponent describes a Varsity Letter (VL) as something of great prestige, arguing that band, orchestra and theater (performing arts) "degrade the meaning of the award" when they receive it. If we are to determine the truth of this, we first need to figure out how meaningful a VL actually is.

And the answer is, as one might have guessed, not very. The moment one leaves high school, whether they have a VL is considered completely irrelevant in both the realm of college and the "real world". This is not to say that talent is unimportant -- as many colleges specifically seek talent, but a VL is not considered to be indicative of talent.

Consider a state with quite a few schools, many of them very small. Most of these small schools (<100/class) will have football teams and said teams will be awful when compared to those of larger schools. This makes sense, considering a larger school has a larger pool of talent to draw from. However, even the smallest of these schools would reward VL's to varsity football players, regardless of their actual talent.

As such, a football VL no more indicates having talent at football than owning an instrument indicates having talent at music. Poor musicians can own instruments, just as poor football players can receive a VL.

Given this, it cannot be said that awarding a VL to performing arts students degrades the meaning of the award, since the award has little import anyway.

Diligence, hard work and commitment.

While the significance of a VL diminishes to near-zero after graduating, they do have some symbolic meaning in the realm of high school. A VL is meant to symbolize the traits mentioned above; they indicate that a student has put hard work into an activity that in some way enriches the school and the community.

Peforming arts students no doubt fit this qualification, at least those in the "varsity section" of these groups. A band/orchestra student goes to practice everyday and often has practice before/after school and during the summer, just like a football player does. Theater students practice tirelessly for 2-4 plays per year.

The opponent seems to recognize that these people work hard, but makes the faulty assumption that sporting activities are somehow more valuable simply because they require greater physical feats, whereas performing arts students require more intellectual talents.

We have no reason to believe that physical ability is more important than intellectual ability. On the contrary, an intellectual person is significantly more likely to get a better job and contribute more to the economy than a physically apt person. Some tiny percentage of sports players are able to add significant value to the world, those being the ones who make it to the collegiate/professional level.

In essence, physical ability is less applicable to the real world than intellectual ability and, as such, the latter ought to be valued more. Understanding this, it is clear that a performing arts student has just as much a right to a VL than a sports player.


Regardless of the talent in your school, whatever its size, every varsity football player receives a VL. Regardless of the talent in your school, whatever its size, every varsity performing arts student receives a VL.

I've demonstrated that VL's are not valuable outside of high school, demonstrating that there is no "prestige" to be demeaned. I've further shown that performing arts students will often practice as much as sports players. Finally, I've shown that performing arts talent is one that fosters intellect, whereas sports foster physical ability -- and that the intelligence contributes more to the world than does physical aptitude.
Debate Round No. 1


A slow clap to the opponent. Thank you for accepting my challenge.

The opponent has attacked my views on the requirements on a varsity letter. That's fine with me. Rightfully so, many believe that hard work and commitment are what makes a VL important, and that a VL signifies that any school wide activity can receive it.

But let's talk about diligence and commitment, which the negative has heavily elaborated upon.

In my school orchestra, if you look around from the front of the room, you can see a lack of focus within rehearsal. People are on their phones, playing out of turn and out of tune, or speaking with a friend. Granted, that doesn't speak volumes about the people that are legitimately dedicated- they practice at home, they play with dignity, and they pay close attention to the conductor of the orchestra. But the others piggyback on the orchestra for trips around the United States to perform or, bringing it back to the resolution, for a VL.

The students that work hard deserve an award of some sort, that goes without saying. But a VL should be given to those who are risking maladies and severe injuries like concussions, broken bones, torn tendons or ligaments, etc. The unwritten meaning of a VL is for athletics- not for activities where 80% of the people laze around and play a few notes on a fiddle.

If somebody asks you if you're in sports, do you respond with a fine art? No. No, you don't. The meaning of a VL will be for sports, as they traditionally have been. A parent of an athlete might have a puzzled look if they see somebody walk by saying "Varsity Band".

In conclusion, the meaning of the VL stands firm. The interpretation is becoming, If you may, more liberal or progressive. In high school, a VL may mean the world to someone who gives up hours of their time and so much of their physical strength to achieve. For someone to get the exact award for doing next to nothing is an outrage.


I'll be responding to the opponent's remarks in the "quote-response" format for the ease of the voters. I believe we have enough room for that to work properly. As a quick note to the opponent, remember that we are two people who have never met who are debating each other on a site specifically for debate. I am not attacking your views -- I'm just playing my part as the negating party.

The reference quotes will be paraphrased summary statements of the opponent's argument.

"Sometimes orchestra students are lazy, piggy backing on the talents of others."

This is a truth that extends far beyond that of performing arts students. In all disciplines there will always be people who coast on the hard work of others. Notably, this is the case with football players as well. There will be people on the team who have no particular football talent who still get to receive a VL simply because they are one ineffective unit in an otherwise effective team.

If this "laziness factor" were in some way unique to performing arts students, the opponent would have a point. However, anyone who went to high school (the voters have, I assume) knows that some football players put in no further effort than is required, just like some members of every club/organization.

"A VL should only go to those who risk maladies and severe injuries."

First off, this is just an arbitrary standard introduced by the opponent. There is no definition of VL that signifies "this award was granted because so-and-so did a dangerou activity." A Varsity Letter, by definition, simply signifies someone who has participated on a varsity-level team and in varsity-level competition. The idea that this competition should in some way be "dangerous" is one the opponent has effectively made up. And while he has the right to this opinion, it is not supported by the definition of what a VL actually is.

Even if we are to assume that VLs are reserved for people risking injury, performing arts students would still qualify as recipients.

Members of the marching band are often risking injury during practice. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found a significant correlation between marching band camps and lower musculoskeletor injury. [1]

People that play instruments are also privvy to all manner of injury, ranging from Carpal Tunnel to Tendinitis. [2]

Theater performers in high school are particularly prone to injury, given the physical requirements of singing, dancing and acting. A survey by the NCBI found that 45.9% of theater high school students have sustained some orthopaedic injury in the past year. [3]

As one can clearly see, even by the illegitimate standard of one requiring physical risk to receive a VL, performing arts students are still applicable.

"The traditional meaning of a VL is for sports students."

This claim is unsubstantiated. The opponent offers no proof that people have traditionally viewed Varsity Letters as being for only sports students. Beyond that, the definition of a VL is such that any student participating in a Varsity event is elligible for a VL.


I have demonstrated that a VL is not in and of itself indicative of talent and hard work, since students of all team disciplines (football/theater/etc.) can piggy back of the successes of others.

I have shown that performing arts students don't just work hard -- they are prone to physical injury just as sports players are.

As such, it is clear that, if we are to assume that football players "should" be given VL's, varsity performing arts students should as well.


1 -;
2 -;
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Debate Round No. 2


For those who have not seen my profile, this is my first debate on this website and I appreciate the opportunity to go up against a skilled debater- one that will even conclude with their own resolutions and shown valid sources for their argument. I have shown a strong bias in my argument without valid sources, and they went straight off of the books. I congratulate my opponent, and I thank whoever you are for showing me the ropes of this website.

Now on to some remarks I have about my previous argument.

I was speaking about the lazy musicians who "Piggy Back off others" and the negative has shown the same with sports- the thing is that varsity athletics are composed of handpicked athletes that are shown to push themselves and their teammates. Those who do not push themselves to the extent that coaches are looking for are sent down to the Junior Varsity for a lack of effort or skill. Granted, some schools might not have strong as athletics as others, so they pick and even scramble to recruit enough players to fill a Varsity Squad, let alone have enough players for a JV team. That would be the ONLY instance in which the negative's claim would be true.

Onto some stock issues for my last argument

Giving a VL to a participant in an activity not only would weather the sense of accomplishment for an athlete that participates in a sport requiring endurance, strength, and the most accurate of perception, but would cause a social bitterness between fine arts and athletics that would not end until a change of opinion (not likely to happen) or a discontinuation of the VL for fine arts and a substitution in a different award for fine arts programs.

The negative said I provided no evidence. I shall give it. Traditionally not from sports, eh? 1865, Harvard baseball team was in need of a uniform, so an old English H was embroidered on the breast of the gray flannel jersey. The Harvard football team adopted the same tradition for their jerseys in the autumn football season of 1875. The football captain allowed certain players to keep the jersey with the H if they had contributed greatly against their largest rivals, Yale and Princeton. This can be synthesized to todays standards in most schools- varsity letters are not given just for standing on the sideline of the Varsity games or meets- every school has requirements for the award in terms of contribution to the success of the team, as did Harvard, such as a certain amount of playing time, a requirement of key blocks/tackles/points scored (for football), for a certain amount of team points scored/opponents beaten in varsity matches/ or takedowns scored (for folkstyle wrestling). The orchestra I am in has no requirement but to stay in it for two years, no matter what chair you were or if you had private lessons within the music. Shows commitment, sure, but no specific sign of diligence, a "never give up" mentality, or leadership.

(Source: "Mount Olympus Sports": )

Plan of Action:
The plan of action can has partially stated in my previous arguments. The first step would be to go back to giving Varsity letters to the people who have a scoreboard behind them. The Fine Arts students deserve an award of some sort, no doubt. Perhaps an award signifying their diligence signed by a superintendent or district official? Varsity athletes do not receive that kind of swagger with their award, so the bragging rights are sure to even out- on a college application, it sure will.

Following the Plan of action, I can stop listening to petty arguments in the hallways about who works harder. They refuse to see it from our side, even if I have already seen It from theirs. If the awards are returned to the way they once were, the two branches of extracurricular activities can go back to, quote un-quote, "living in harmony,". Sure, the marching band brings the crowd to an all-time high, but they don't do anything to win the game. It is nice to have their support, but the game can be won without them, quite literally.

For those of you that argue that my arguments are heavily biased: I won't deny it. I am an athlete that is unsatisfied with how the Varsity letters are given out. In a country run by capitalism, does it not make sense to earn what you receive and not to have it handed out to you?
I could be wrong. Maybe this is a problem that only affects my school. If so, I envy other schools and give them a big shout out for recognizing those who worked hard- this isn't a matter of putting people in their place...I don't want to give off that vibe.

This has been my first debate on this hub and I look forward to future debates here. My opponent brought the guns blazing, and I must admit, I was caught off-guard by how well their arguments were structured. I thank this mysterious character for taking my challenge, and for setting a standard within me to do a bit more research because I predict that I took a hard L. Thanks again, may the best debater win.


Seeing the opponent present the stock issues of CX debate fills me with a sort of nostalgic joy. Thank you for that.

I'll first finish up with the arguments, then I'll hit stock issues.


The opponent's unintentional concession of the debate is found in his final remarks before stock issues. He states that there is an instance in which my claims are true and that this does occasionally happen.

As such, I have upheld my burden by showing the opponent has not proved his case, since it fails to hedge against the "edge cases" of schools with poor sports programs. In this, I have technically won.

Beyond that, the scenario in which "a varsity team requires weak, unmotivated players in order to be a full team" happens far more often than the opponent would like to admit. It's time for some math. We'll make some reasonable assumptions, then see what that mathematically implies for small schools.

If we are to award a VL based upon effort, it makes sense that only people who put in above average effort would qualify. 50% of people are above average, by definition. Let's further assume that the work put in needs to be "significantly" above average. We'll say that significantly refers to one standard deviation above average. This puts the people deserving of an award at 30%.

Let us assume that 40% of boys in a high school are interested in playing football and that half of these boys can become good enough for varsity.

With this data, we can figure out how many people in a given school population will be on varsity deservingly.

30% of population puts in the effort * 20% of the population are boys who want to play * 50% are good enough to be varsity, deservingly.

This puts us at (0.3)(0.2)(0.5) = 0.03 = 3% of the school population.

Now, 11 players are required to be able to play. This does not account for bench time, kickers, special units, etc.

Our school must be at least X size, satisfying that X * 3% = 11, or 0.03X = 11, or X = 367.

The population of grades 10-12 must be at least 367 for us to expect to have a varsity team full of kids who all deserve to be there, according to his definition of who should get a VL. This results in a high school with some 475 students which, in my state of Texas, would classify the school as a 3A school out of 5A.

Since the A distribution is about equal and 3A is in the middle (with 475 being about in the middle of that division), we can confidently say that half of all high schools have less than the requisite amount of people needed to have a varsity team consisting of all players who work hard.

This doesn't even take into consideration the fact that football teams are almost always larger than size 11, that coaches don't pick players perfectly and that many players become inelligible due to grades. With all this, it is easy to see that more than half of all schools will have varsity football players who do not work particularly hard.

Conclusion: Given these findings, it is clear that my argument is relevant for a great percentage of schools. There will always be kids who do not work hard, but who are part of a varsity team -- and who therefore get a VL. This is true for sports teams and performing arts teams.

The opponent's claim thus fails, since the rewarding of a VL can never truly indicate talent, hard work and dedication. Because of this, we cannot ban giving VL's to performing arts students on this basis. I have denied the resolution in a significant way, invalidating the opponent's position.


Stock Issues


I have demonstrated that VL's are not indicative of talent or hard work and that performing arts students will work just as hard as sports players. As such, there is no "demeaning" of the award when given to a performing arts students.

Whether this causes bitterness is outside of this resolution. In my experience, there has always been a social tiff between athletics and performing arts. Performing arts students often notice that the single event of football is more heavily funded than the entirety of all performing arts and academic events put together. This likely causes bitterness toward athletics people.

Similarly, athletics draws a much bigger crowd than performing arts students, so athletics students feel like they are doing something relevant, whereas the "arts kids" do nothing of serious import.

These feelings have always been systematic and if we start denying performing arts kids the right to a VL, these negative relations will only intensify.


A case's inherency refers to it's "inherent barrier" which is some attitudinal or structural obstacle that stops the case from already going through. "The case hasn't been implemented yet." is not an inherent barrier, as it does not show any obstacle preventing the change from happening -- merely that it hasn't happened.

The opponent did not produce an inherent barrier here. Fortunately for him, this is not a policy debate.

The opponent does offer some mildly interesting history that shows Varsity Letters originated in sports. While I'm glad he presented this evidence, it does nothing for his case. Many sports players get the VL despite the fact that they didn't go "above and beyond", just as many performing arts players have the same privelege.

If you go to a small school, you can get on any varsity team you want, sports, academics or performing arts, simply because of the fact that the school is so small. This is an inherent part of being a small school and the opponent's case does not fix this.


The plan seems to be "only give VL's to sports players". This is the plan that I have argued against.

The opponent seems to indicate that PA students should get some "other" kind of award if they work hard. The difference between a VL and this "other award" seems to be in name only, which leads one to wonder why there should be a distinction at all.

All VL's contain the event in which it was achieved. It is not as if a basoonist can get a VL and try and pass it off as a football VL -- the event is right there under the letter. As such, there already exists a distinction between sports and performing as far as the VL is concerned.

[And as far as colleges are concerned, varsity letters mean nothing by themselves. As I've mentioned, small school football players can get VL's even if they are completely awful.]


The solvency seems to be that:

"The opponent won't have to listen to petty hallway arguments anymore."

It's a high school -- there will always be petty arguments to listen to. If this plan went into effect, you'd have to get used to hearing very loud arguments from both students and parents as to why their child doesn't get a Varsity Letter even though they're a 3-time, first chair state basoonist.

This "plan" won't bring about harmony to any extent. In fact, the opposite is more likely.

It would systematically deny hard working performing arts students a distinction that even a terribly poor football player could get -- an award that has been given to performing arts students before for a very long time.


The "stock issues" piece was quite late and not particularly relevant to this type of debate. I hit it anyway, for completeness. My "argumentation" conclusion is the same as by entire conclusion, but I'll give a quick point-by-point.

1. Due to the nature of school sizes, there will always be varsity team members who do not work hard.

2. Given (1), denying performing arts students will not fix the problem of VL's being given to non-desrving people.

3. If the plan went into action, we would see many hard working PA students cheated out of something deserved.

Considering all this, the resolution is denied. It may be that something is needed to insure that only the "deserving" are awarded, but the opponent solution is definitely not it.

Thanks to my opponent for keeping his head and welcome to DDO! You'll definitely learn some things here that may be able you with your HS debate career. (Which I assume you're in, given the use of stock issues.)
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by cypress 2 months ago
I know it's too late to vote, but I'll give my opinion. Of course the arts should be given Varsity letters! Tons of practice and work goes into music, the dramatic arts, and the arts in general. The work is more mental with art than physical, but it is nonetheless effort of equal merit!
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