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RFD for Affirmative Action Debate

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9/11/2015 8:58:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
The following RFD is for this debate:

I don't have much time to phrase this RFD well, so I'm going to just roll through the arguments. I'll start with Pro's contentions, move into Con's, and then assess the debate. Realize that I pretty much just finished reading, so my processing of the debate will take place as I go through each of the arguments " I haven't yet come to a decision.

Before I do get into those arguments, though, a note on Gish Gallop and the framework.

I wouldn't classify Pro's arguments as Gish Gallop. He provided extensive reasoning for each, admittedly sacrificing some for the prospect of having more arguments. That's fine, and it should make these arguments simpler to attack. And, as Pro pointed out, since you both have the same number of characters, it's kind of hard to classify written arguments as Gish Gallop in any instance.

As for the framework, I recognize that the burdens are equal, though also that there were two separate debates going on jointly here, one that applies to the educational system and one that applies to the working world. Even if one side wins one, that's not an automatic win, as it must outweigh the other in terms of harm/benefit.

Pro's C1)

Pro starts by arguing that AA is an outdated system. Con is trying to use these arguments as a means to gain traction with his own, arguing that Pro is tacitly agreeing that AA had benefits at some time. While this argument could be interpreted as granting some level of solvency to AA, that's not how I perceive it. The argument instead seems to me "IF we grant that AA had solvency at some point in the past, is that solvency continuing today?" I think this is a key issue in the debate, because Pro's argument is that any potential solvency garnered by employing AA is long since past. As such, it at first appears to simply be a solvency take-out, an argument meant solely to prevent Con from claiming benefits. But there's something tacked onto the end that matters a whole lot (but doesn't get explored in much detail) that could have made this a point of offense: that it represents "a colorized America". I have a concept of what that term means, but not a clear implication coming from it. Other points about furthering racial inequality come out later in more detail, but this point remains mainly an assertion throughout the debate.

The main means Pro uses for the solvency take-out is to show that things are generally much better now than they were for African Americans and women. Later on, he questions whether there's any effect coming from AA (and I'll get to that), but for this point, the sole means he uses to support it initially is by showing that people are better off now than they were. Con does effectively respond that problems still exist, so there is still a need to tackle racial equality. That would be fine if all Con had to do was disprove the point Pro is making.

The trouble is that Pro's argument actually introduces a nagging problem into Con's case. He's essentially arguing that there's no current benefit to keeping AA, that everyone would either just not be racially biased following its ban or that any bias that currently exists will just persist. I'm not really given a solid reason by Con to believe that AA will continue having effects beyond the status quo. Even if I'm buying that AA is the cause for all of these benefits Pro showcases, it's difficult to believe that things are continuing to get better for these people right now as a result of AA. Maybe they are, but I don't have any recent studies that have evaluated the more modern trend for minorities and women, just long term studies that evaluate the changes to these populations over time. It's not really supportive of the assertion that AA is beneficial (though it might be the beginning of showing that), but more importantly, it just fails to answer the central question being posed by this contention. Pro isn't gaining any offense off of it, but it leaves me doubting the benefits of AA in any context, since I have yet to see any data that proves it's effective right now.

Pro's C2)

This argument is focused on the actual effects of AA " what does it actually do? This is a major tension throughout the debate, with Pro arguing that it incurs reverse discrimination by ensuring that individuals with lower qualifications get jobs, thus reducing the quality of the people filling those jobs. Con argues that it's not reverse discrimination because the only tension is between candidates with the same qualifications.

The issue with Con's argument is that he doesn't address the two pieces of evidence Pro brings forward to support his argument, in the form of SAT scores for education and firefighters for workers. He's not responsive to these examples, only providing the response that minorities are bound to get lower scores and have lower qualifications as a result of receiving sub-par educations. While that may be true, it doesn't address the fact that this is still reverse discrimination. Con seems to be trying to contend that this showcases a need to impart balance into the system, but a) I'm not sure that this does result in balance, merely an attempt to right a separate wrong by wronging others, b) it still reduces the overall effectiveness of people in these jobs/colleges, and c) that just invites the question of whether AA is actually tackling the major issue, which appears to be unequal education.

Pro's C3)

Pro's argument is focused on the importance of having a meritocracy, and how AA defies that effort. Honestly, I was waiting for a massive critique of meritocracy. There are some great ones I've found that would have really done some damage to Pro's arguments, as the importance of the meritocracy was behind the impacts of contention 2 as well. I don't really see that, though.

Instead, much of Con's responses seem to miss the key points in Pro's argument, which is problematic because this is Pro's central alternative to AA: a pure meritocracy. He presents some other alternatives later, but they're half-hearted and not mentioned again. He argues that deserving individuals of majority races are essentially being discriminated against, resulting in a system that runs against the grain of how hiring should occur. It would have been beneficial to Pro to actually impact this out and explain what it means to shun deserving people in favor of less deserving minorities, but the general gist is that people will be hurt in the process. Con really doesn't address this logic.

Con does spend time on the latter half. Pro claims that it encourages laziness on the part of these minories, since they essentially feel entitled to the positions instead of trying to do their best to work their way in. Con responds by stating that the alternative is for these people to despair ever getting in, and that they won't believe they ever stand a chance, but I don't see how AA actually promotes hard work, since Con only argues that they feel the opportunity is suddenly possible, not that AA makes them want to work harder to get there. Having an opportunity open up doesn't guarantee that people are going to work harder to achieve it. Con seems to be arguing against a world where people are allowed to racially discriminate, and yet that doesn't seem to be what Pro is defending. He's defending a pure meritocracy. Con could have argued that such a thing is impossible, and that racial prejudice will crop up once again if AA is repealed, but I needed to see that argument spelled out somewhere, and I don't.
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9/11/2015 8:59:02 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Pro's C4)

This is where we start to get into the idea of "a colorized America", though it's not quite what I had in mind when Pro used the term initially. He argues that preferential treatment leads many individuals to think that their successes are not their own, and leads others to view these individuals as lesser, since they didn't achieve their results without help, leading to inferiority complexes.

Con's response details how people in these minority groups actually feel, showing that self-esteem seems to rise and that they don't feel others question their abilities. Pro's responses to this are threadbare " he's really not responsive to the issue that there's no generated inferiority complex. Even if a stigma and "racial thinking" result, it's not leading to the problems he presented originally. As such, I view this argument as turned by Con, who appears to have shown that the reverse of Pro's original contention is true.

The contention does continue to talk about other claims, but that's really addressed more thoroughly on contention 6.

Pro's C5)

Pro argues that AA produces ill-equipped prospects from schools. Essentially, these students don't rise to the challenge. Con is basically unresponsive to this point, cross-applying previous arguments and showcasing an increase in the number of college degrees. However, merely having these degrees doesn't make these out to be success stories. Pro's point stands, but it was never that strong to begin with. It's not a negative for AA, just a shortcoming that shows that it's not providing the effects it's supposed to. That's mitigation of Con's benefits, not a disadvantage.

Pro's C6)

The argument seems to be that others will and have tried to seek AA for themselves, in an attempt to garner those same advantages on the basis of past harms. Pro argues that this results in ridiculous outcomes with regards to litigation, though it's unclear just what level of harm that produces. Con's response that the benefits outweigh any harm because it still helps some of the disadvantaged, and argues that some of these, perhaps, should be included. None of this really eliminates the harm Pro's talking about, instead just comparing that harm to the benefits of AA.

Con's C1)

This argument seems good, but there are two things missing from it.

The first is that it's not addressing the current benefits of AA. Perhaps if Con had produced a chart, showing that AA was continuing to benefit people in more modern times, this would have been more persuasive. The best he's managing to do here is argue that AA has had effects, not that it continues to have them.

The second is with regards to correlation vs. causation. I'm not seeing much reason to believe that AA is specifically causing these benefits. I needed to see Con argue that Pro's alternate causes (in particular, economic growth) didn't correlate with these outcomes, and therefore that AA was more likely causative. At the very least, I needed an argument about what would happen if AA were banned, which I never saw.

Overall, it's a good correlative argument that has me believing that AA may have had some effect and may have some effect today, but it's weak on the former and incredibly weak on the latter, with far too few links between AA and these outcomes.

One note here: I don't really see much of a problem in the fact that some people who aren't disadvantaged get AA. That's certainly not to AA's credit, but it's not a clear harm, either. Unless these people constitute a sizable portion of those who get AA, it doesn't mean much to me.

Con's C2)

Con's argument here just doesn't go much of anywhere. Both sides agree that reducing discrimination is the name of the game. Con argues that the government has a duty to do so, but I think Pro's rebuttal puts some uncertainty into that, when he argues that "[t]his does not mean that the people have equal outcomes per se, or even equal opportunities." Con's argument is dependent on equal opportunities being necessary, yet he never really attacks this claim from Pro. Even if it does engage in some moral and legal issues, I think Con had to spend some time here, yet he misses the issue completely in his final round.

I don't buy Pro's evidence that AA has been ineffective, i.e. that it hasn't solved for discrimination in 55 years, but his point that the studies are dated has me more concerned about the effectiveness of AA today.

Con does effectively show that, in cases of discrimination where someone is clearly preferring the white male for no other reason than his white-ness and male-ness, AA provides a benefit. The problem is that I'm not sure that's what he's arguing against. I don't know that that's the system that minorities and women are likely to face in Pro's world. Perhaps they would, but that's what I really needed Con to argue, and I don't think he ever reaches that point.

Con's C3)

Probably Con's strongest argument. He states that the kind of reverse discrimination that occurs in many cities for police does benefit those communities. This argument doesn't become clearly strong until the Ferguson example is brought up, but it does then showcase how a racially white group of police officers is automatically at a disadvantage in many communities. Pro's right that reverse discrimination would result in less capable police forces, but at least in areas like this, it's clear that they would be incapable no matter their qualifications, and at least they would have some likelihood of producing beneficial outcomes if they were more racially diverse.


The way I view this debate is on a larger scale because that's where most of the debate takes place. Thus, while the police officer issue is important, it's not really comparable to the tremendous impacts of AA on people across the country. Sure, some cities might benefit, but without a clear picture of how it would affect the vast majority of people, I prefer other outcomes.

I'm also not getting enough on litigation to really see it as a big issue, especially since discrimination, as an impact, seems to be much more the focus of this debate. People feeling the need to litigate presents financial concerns, and the desire to receive the same benefits (i.e. their own reverse discrimination) might seem like an effort to reduce discrimination, but it needed more fleshing out to get there, and it just doesn't weigh much for me.

So, what do we have?

Con is winning that there's some degree of possible benefit to minorities from AA. It's not clear that it's happening now, so it's an unlikely impact, but it might be raising a lot of people up. What it's definitely doing is improving their self-esteem, which creates a better mental state for those who are currently or were previously oppressed.

Pro is winning that AA produces reverse discrimination, which affects a far broader population. Admittedly, I don't get much of an impact from this beyond that it destroys a nebulous sense of fairness and damages the meritocracy, but since most of those points aren't countered by Con, I'm buying that there's some harm, and that Pro is better linked to it.

Honestly, my vote could swing either way, but since the outcome of discrimination has a lot of nebulous impacts that aren't really assessed through any lens (a focus on justice and what is just could have helped clarify this), I have to choose the side that better links to its outcomes, and that's Pro. I have little reason not to believe in the meritocracy's effectiveness, and thus, little reason to believe that AA is a better system, either for schooling or the workplace. Thus, that's how I vote.