The onus of developing academic competencies and life skills in students lies with the school.
Debate Rounds (3)
First, the burden of proof. I take it that each of us bear the burden of proof (the 'onus', as it were!) of making a positive case for/against [C]. My opponent has already made a positive case against [C], and in what follows I will show where I disagree with my opponent's case, and my reasons for doing so. I will then make a positive case in favour of [C], which my opponent will have to show is less plausible than his positive case against [C].
Second, the meaning of [C].
It seems to me that [C] could mean one of two things:
[C1] The UNIQUE and ONLY onus of developing academic competencies and life skills in students lies with the school.
[C2] The (non-unique) onus of developing academic competencies and life skills in students lies with the school.
I do not dispute that both are possible readings of [C]. It's worth noting that [C1] is a much stronger claim than [C2] and would require much more argument on my part. Likewise, denying [C2] would be a much stronger claim than denying [C1] on the part of my opponent. I must confess that when I accepted this debate I read [C] to mean [C2] and not [C1]. The reason is because my opponent squarely asserted in his opening statement: "Schools are only a medium to sustain and promote [children]. Nothing more, my friends, and certainly nothing less". This statement seems to me to suggest that according to my opponent schools are importantly different from parents, in that schools are merely a medium for sustaining and promoting children, while parents are not. I read this as saying that parents are unique in bearing responsibility for children's education in a way that schools are not. Schools, as *a medium* of promoting and sustaining students, are ultimately not *necessary* for the development of the academic competencies and life skills of students. Parents, on the other hand (according to my opponent), are in fact necessary for the development of the competencies and skills of students. The onus is thus on them.
Given the context of my opponent's framing of [C], I I take it that it is thus reasonable to interpret [C] as meaning something like [C2]. I thus will not argue that schools *alone* are necessary for the education of students, and hence are the *SOLE* bearers of responsibility for education; instead, I will merely argue that they are *a* necessary component of the education of students, and thus bear *some* onus (indeed, a significant portion of it). I take it that if multiple institutions/individuals bear joint responsibility for education, then one can truly say of each party that the onus is on them, at least in part.
Now, onto my two-part argument.
(A) Parents are not the only necessary bearers of responsibility for developing the academic competencies of their children.
My argument for this claim is as follows. the parent(s) of a child are not to be *reasonably expected* to possess the abilities required to develop *all* academic competencies in their child. But if a parent is not to be reasonably expected to possess such abilities, then they cannot be responsible for developing all those competencies. Therefore, parents are not responsible for developing all the academic competencies in their child. Now, given our context (i.e. english speaking countries in which school access is generally available), it is in fact the case that there *are* schools capable of developing some of these academic competencies which are outside the (reasonably expected) capabilities of parents. (For instance, competency in upper-secondary level chemistry). Given that schools are likely to be the *only* institutions with such a capability, it is reasonable to also hold that these capabilities confer *responsibility* on these institutions to develop these specific academic competencies in students, where applicable.
Now, even if the argument so far holds, it doesn't yet make a case for [C], because according to [C] schools don't just have the onus of developing academic competencies"they also have the onus of developing *life skills*. Surely these lie with the parents? Here the second part of my argument comes in.
(B) Schools bear necessary responsibility for developing life skills in their students.
My argument for this claim is that adolescents require the development of life skills *constantly*. That is to say, there is no point in adolescence where the development of life skills is not required. Furthermore, in my prior argument I argued that schools bear responsibility for developing some of the academic competencies of students. But in order for schools to fulfil that responsibility, students need to spend a significant amount of *time* at schools to develop these competencies (e.g. learning math, or learning chemistry, would require enrolment at school and the spending of a significant amount of time at school during the year). Now, if it is true that adolescents require the development of life skills constantly, it follows that they require the development of life skills at school as well. Finally, schools generally have the requisite capacities and abilities for developing life skills in addition to academic competencies. It is thus reasonable to hold them responsible, in part, for the development of life skills in students.
I take it that the above considerations, if correct, show that schools bear a necessary responsibility for developing both the academic competencies as well as the life skills of students, at least in part. Given that responsibility, and their capacity to fulfil that responsibility, it is reasonable to conclude that the onus is on schools to fulfil that responsibility in developing the academic competencies and life skills of students.
The conclusions of my arguments may appear weak, because they do not say that the onus lies *wholly* with the school. But that is not a problem, because as I said earlier, the contention at hand is not that the onus lies *wholly* with the school"it is merely that *some* onus lies with the school. My argument, I believe, establishes this conclusion.
I await my opponent's response and thank him again for creating an interesting topic for debate.
What have schools become today? They've become a realm where teachers are pitched into a desperate race against time to complete their portions. I agree, schools play an important role in imparting knowledge. However, the onus of developing the right attitude and ability towards achieving academic competency lies solely with the coherent synergy of family, peers, society and surroundings.
What reasons has Con given so far for this case?
(1) "A child is like a clean slate" susceptible to be moulded in the right manner".
I agree fully with Con's claim here. The only thing is that it does not give any positive reason to think that schools have no onus for developing life skills and academic competencies in students! Indeed, my view is that children must be moulded in the right manner *both* by parents *and* by the school. So this point (1) does not seem to constitute any evidence for Con's case.
(2) "Before we become a part of the educational system, we start learning from our surroundings" Our interactions start with our fellow human beings" This effectively ensures that, by the time children join school, their moral compasses are fixed".
Here I disagree with Con. It may be true that children are influenced by others from the time they are born (and I already acknowledge this in my above response to Con's point 1), but I don't see how this is evidence that "their moral compasses are fixed" before they are of school age (i.e. 5-7 years old). So, I think Con's point (2) here is unsubstantiated as it stands, in the absence of further evidence. Indeed, I'll argue against this point later on in this post.
(3) "What have schools become today? They've become a realm where teachers are pitched into a desperate race against time to complete their portions."
I think this claim is true, but again I don't see how it counts as evidence for Con's case. Why couldn't it simply show that schools are *failing* to fulfil their responsibilities as institutions that *do* bear the onus of ensuring students have the relevant competencies? Indeed, I think if anything this claim is evidence for *my* case as Pro. The reason is that it is quite plausible that the *reason why* we think under-resourced schools are 'unsatisfactory' or undesirable, is precisely because we think those schools have a responsibility they need to live up to: i.e. a responsibility to educate students to the appropriate level, for which they need resources and teachers who are not pressured by unreasonable demands. Con doesn't think that schools have such a responsibility, so Con needs to give us an alternative explanation as to why under-resourced schools are an undesirable thing.
As far as I can see these are the main points Con made for his case. I have argued that there are reasons to think Con's points are unconvincing. Further I have argued that Con's point (3) is actually a reason for *my* case as Pro. Having given my evaluation of Con's arguments I will now turn to my own positive arguments.
First, let me recap the argument I gave in my first post. I said that parents cannot be reasonably expected to have the *necessary abilities* to develop academic competencies in students. But if parents don't have the necessary abilities, it's not reasonable to expect them to be *solely responsible* for developing these academic competencies. But then with who does the responsibility lie? I claim that *in general*, the best candidate is the institutional school, because in general schools *do* have the necessary abilities. They can pay to employ teachers who are experts in high school chemistry, physics, english etc. Schools (considered as institutions) thus, in virtue of their teachers, have abilities that far outstrip parents (and peers, society etc. outside the school setting). The same applies for life skills: while *some* life skills can be developed outside of school (e.g. having good table manners and behaving well around strangers) other skills often are developed in school (e.g. sex education, outdoor education, swimming, and behaving well around one's peers at school etc.).
Let me now give another argument. My claim here is (contrary to Con's point 2 above) human beings remain highly undeveloped (and therefore fragile) in their character by the time they reach school age (5-7). Indeed, key aspects of moral reasoning only manifest themselves by ages 7-10. But if so, schools bear significant responsibility for developing these aspects of moral reasoning. Therefore, schools have an onus of developing significant life skills in students (of young age).
Let me defend my claims. First, the claim that school-age children have undeveloped moral compasses (i.e. reasoning concerning right and wrong) as well as undeveloped character traits. As evidence I cite Larry Nucci's (1997) study on moral development and character formation. Nucci states that the morality of children up to pre-school age (i.e. ages 3-6) is primarily based on the idea that "When you get hit, it hurts, and you start to cry". However it is "not yet structured by understandings of fairness as reciprocity" treating others as one would wish to be treated". Nucci says that it is only by age 10 that such an understanding is developed. But this means that children develop facets of their basic moral reasoning while at school age (7-10). So I think there's good evidence that children remain quite morally underdeveloped even by school age.
Onto the second claim, that if children are underdeveloped in this way then schools have the responsibility and onus of ensuring this development take place. This seems quite plausible because students spend 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week at school. In this time students need ongoing moral formation. Thus the school bears significant responsibility for ensuring that formation takes place. Of course, when students get home they need ongoing formation from their parents. But this doesn't affect my conclusion: the onus still lies *to a significant degree* with schools to develop a student's moral life correctly.
In conclusion, three reasons to affirm Pro:
"Con's point (3) that under-resourced schools are bad, which I argued gives reason to affirm Pro;
"my argument from my first post which I re-iterated, from the inability of parents to develop all the academic competencies of children (which remains unchallenged);
"and finally the second argument I have given here from the underdeveloped character of young school-age children.
Nucci, Larry (1997). "Moral Development and Character Formation". In Walberg, H. J. & Haertel, G. D., *Psychology and educational practice.* Berkeley: MacCarchan. p. 127-157. Accessed online at http://tigger.uic.edu...
Siddharth_Sunil forfeited this round.
I'm sorry to see Con forfeit this round. Carry all my points. I would like to re-iterate that Con needs to refute my three points in favour of the contention, and make a stronger case of his own, in order to make a convincing case here.
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