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RFD for Physical Education Debate

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12/21/2017 6:17:37 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between lisa.lisa and RichardCarter found here:

This debate meanders a bit, and both debaters move away from the topic on multiple occasions. I"ll get into most of these during my RFD, but I need to start with one. The topic is specific to universities, yet the topic of students in high schools having to have PE classes becomes the focus of the debate during R2. Pro, you should design a topic to include the topic you want to debate. The topic you"ve designed doesn"t fit the position you clarify in R2. So, I have to disregard any and all arguments that have to do with high school.

There is also very little support for most of the arguments each side is making. Con eventually presents a couple of sources, though I don"t think they do much to bolster his central argument. Pro presents no sources, functioning solely from anecdotal experience. Neither of you are helped by the lack of support, and it makes the debate harder for me to assess because it becomes a case of "he said, she said" on issues where the two of you disagree.

That being said, I can still assess based on what I see. So I"ll go through each side"s arguments.

Pro"s argument appears rather simple: PE classes are difficult, you can be injured, you can be exhausted, and your teacher can be awful. All of this breaks down to an argument that PE classes dominate your life, drain your stamina, and therefore take away from other aspects of life. A lot of this could have been taken out by Con if he"d simply argued that not all PE classes are bad, and generally talking about the effects of exercise on a person"s day and life, but I don"t get much on that, so I"m forced to buy most of this. I"m not clear on what is being taken away from this, but I get some idea that that can stymie the pursuit of a career. However, Con contends that it wouldn"t do this, and neither side provides much of a warrant or any support, so the teeth of this argument are missing. I see a bunch of possible problems that I can"t quantify or assess for strength, though I can see some potentially meaningful harms. Pro does eventually argue that not being required to exercise and having more freedom in their lives would be happier, but that"s a very vague assertion without any meaningful way to measure or weigh it in the debate.

Con"s argument is also simple. He argues that exercise makes people stronger and can reduce issues with being overweight. There are some assertions that a lack of exercise is unhealthy and obesity is a problem, but it"s never clarified what the health risks are. Pro does respond that not everyone participates (which actually runs contrary to his argument that this is forced participation " I"ll come back to this), but this is simply mitigation " some obese or potentially obese people will participate. Pro also argues that there are multiple complicating factors that affect obesity, but this also only mitigates the argument, as both sides appear to accept that exercise can reduce obesity for some. Con does eventually add onto this argument, claiming that exercise helps in the pursuit of a career. However, as I mentioned before, each side claims the opposite on this issue, and I can"t favor one over the other without any substantive support.

I"m disregarding a lot of the points in this debate that go beyond what I"ve already mentioned. The issue of gym memberships only tells me that some people might engage in exercise without PE classes and that some people don"t have access to gyms in the absence of PE. Again, this only applies if high school is part of the topic, which it is not. Similarly, I find that the argument about other ways to reduce obesity to be solely mitigating to obesity as a harm, and not particularly strong at that. I buy that they can be dangerous, as Con supports, but this was never important anyway. Neither side argues that an obese person who is actively seeking to reduce their obesity doesn"t have options. The only question is, what should we do about obese people who aren"t addressing the problem? Surgery and drugs are a choice. Should PE be a choice? That"s the point of the debate.

So, I"m left with little to work with, and only limited options to weigh the arguments of each side. Neither side gives me a weighing mechanism or compares the strength of their arguments to their opponent"s. Both sides spend little to no time warranting their arguments, and there"s no evidence for the central claims.

It also doesn"t help that both sides say something that could stand by itself as a forfeit of the debate. By arguing that obese people are effectively sitting out PE, Pro undercuts his own argument that the requirement is binding to the point of exhaustion; if they can and do sit out in a system that requires them to participate, then why can"t anyone do that anytime they"re tired? It seems like this introduces choice into the requirement of PE classes, which makes me think that many of the claims Pro made in R1 are partially the result of choice, rather than simply being required to do so. Meanwhile, Con states in R2 that there"s a reason to give students a choice after they graduate from high school, buying into Pro"s narrative that the desire to become more physically fit is necessary to achieve good outcomes. That seems like a much more straightforward concession, and it brings the gym issue back into it by stating that they are effectively equal options at that stage.

I think both sides have weak cases. That being said, I can more easily make the link between obesity and healthy outcomes than I can between loss of time and energy and career outcomes. Both sides need to walk me through their stories, and Pro most of all. If it was just left up to that, I would vote Con. But because of the concession, I have little choice but to vote Pro. Con is buying into Pro"s narrative that the choice to become physically fit is important. Maybe there"s a reason to have high school classes be required in order to train students" minds and bodies such that they will continue to push themselves in college. However, if both sides agree that the choice element is integral for seeing any success on the university level, then all I can do is vote Pro.