Sunday, February 23, 2014

PF April 2014 - Proposed Resolutions

Will you be debating in April? Here are the proposed Public Forum Debate resolutions for April, 2014.

The Public Forum TOPIC AREA for April is "South Asia." The two resolutions from which students and advisors may choose are as follows:

Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.
  2. Resolved: The United States should reduce tariffs on the Bangladesh apparel industry in exchange for increased worker protections.

PF Mar 2014 - Single Gender Classrooms - Con Position

Resolved: Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.

For part 1 of this analysis, click here.

Con Position

One of the difficulties in this resolution results from its lack of specificity (no surprise here).  It seems, if Pro can show how several "pilot" programs demonstrate positive results, one may extrapolate those results to a nationwide policy.  So it is left up to the skill of the debaters to convince the judge as too how many positive examples are sufficient to claim the quality of education in American public schools will improve because, in my opinion, based on the wording of the resolution, the entirety of the American public school system must improve. It does not say, some schools, most schools, poor schools, urban schools or provide any other qualifier. It is American  schools. (Never mind the fact that Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, in fact most people in the western hemisphere are 'Americans', we interpret American as meaning "of the United Sates" because we are arrogant and careless with our language at times.)  This begs the question, if Con can demonstrate failure of some programs to produce positive results, as measured against coeducational programs, can Con extrapolate those conclusions to the entirety of the U.S. public school system? My answer is why not? Indeed, I think Con could gain from asking the judge to afford equal weight to the projection of Con's claims same-gender classrooms will not improve education across the entirety of the U.S educational system.

Another huge ambiguity centers around the the way "improvement" is measured. It is very common in policy debate topicality arguments to claim that burdens of "substantial" or "increase" or I suppose "improve" are not met by the Affirmative and it all depends on how one defines the terms and measures the outcomes as to whether judges will accept or reject the claims. It is no different in PF except it is not framed as an 'a priori', theory argument.  It is simply a claim, that no measurable or statistically significant improvement is demonstrated by the Pro. From my experience in judging PF debate I find, quite often, the short format of speeches allows little time to explore topics to sufficient depth, so many things which are potentially significant are taken for granted and glossed over. I suppose it is necessary since it would be very risky to spend a great deal time challenging standards for measuring improvement in educational systems when neither competitors nor judges are well versed in the nuances and details and there is no time to explore it in depth.  For this reason, while I think challenges to how improvement is demonstrated are legitimate in this debate, I expect most rounds will end up saying things like, "our side shows a 1% increase in college enrollment while our opponents only show 0.25% increase so we win" and judges will accept it because there is no brightline for "improve" in the round.

Same-Gender Classrooms Have No Advantages

Most of the criticism against same-sex (SS) education arises from a review of the literature and the validity of various studies undertaken.  Without indisputable evidence, Pro can only hope to convince the judge to overlook the shortcomings and leap to the same conclusions as the proponents.

Halpern 2011:
From a policy perspective, implementation of SS schooling should stand on evidence that it produces better educational outcomes than coeducational schooling. But such evidence is lacking. A review commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education itself to compare SS and coeducational outcomes concluded: “As in previous reviews, the results are equivocal.” Large-scale reviews in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as analyses of data from the Programme for International Student Assessment, similarly found little overall difference between SS and mixed-sex academic outcomes.

Halpern cites a major review in Great Britain which goes on to cite the results of several systematic studies and he concludes no significant advantages to same-sex education.

Smithers 2006:
There is thus an emerging consensus both in this country and elsewhere that there are no striking advantages to either single-sex or co-education. While frustrating this is entirely understandable. Schools are complex social organisations. A great variety of factors act and interact within and around them affecting the quality of education (which does not take place exclusively in schools). When attempts have been made to assess the impact of these various factors a strong and remarkably consistent finding is obtained: that by far the most powerful predictor of the examination performance of a school is the ability of the pupils who go there (Salmons et al, 1994; Gorard and Smith, 2004; Smithers and Robinson, 2005).

The Smithers' study which notes some impressive results in certain cases also points out the major short-comings of other researchers such as Spielhofer, et al (2004). Smithers concludes "the influence of mixing or separating the sexes is not of over-riding importance" because key demographic data is often omitted, such as "socio-economic status, ethnic background or the extent of homogeneity in the school types". Regarding a comprehensive overview of studies by the U.S Department of Education, Smithers' follow-up casts doubt on the validity of the early conclusions made by U.S. researchers.

Smithers 2006:
Remarkably, none of the three main groups identified above, themselves, still claim a general positive effect for single-sex education. Lee (1998) wrote, “I do not think the research on single-sex schooling (my own and others) should be interpreted as favoring the separation of boys and girls for their education.” She seems to have been led to this conclusion by heavy criticisms from Marsh (1989) and her own failure to reproduce her results. Marsh (1989) pointed out that Lee and Bryk had not sufficiently taken into account pre-enrolment differences and had applied a weak test of statistical significance. When he re-analysed their data he found only three significant effects by school type out of the original 74, and these on relatively unimportant variables. Lee, herself, attempted to replicate her findings for Catholic schools on independent schools, the other sector in the U.S. where single-sex/co-educational comparisons are possible. But she found, “no consistent pattern of effects for attending either single-sex or co-educational independent schools for either boys or girls in independent schools.” She makes the very interesting point that since there was no clear pattern to the findings she could not publish these results unlike those she had obtained for Catholic schools. It is probable, therefore, she argues that the “published studies represent a biased sample of research on any topic.”

While the literature is mixed, as expected between proponents and opponents of same-sex education, Fred Mael in a study for the U.S. Department of Education notes that despite some apparent successes the overall, long-term effect of SS education is entirely inconclusive.

Mael 2005:
As opposed to concurrent indicators of academic achievement, any positive effects of SS schooling on longer-term indicators of academic achievement are not readily apparent. No differences were found for postsecondary test scores, college graduation rates, or graduate school attendance rates. However, all the findings in this domain came from a pair of studies, indicating the lack of high-quality research on these important criteria. Although some studies favor single-sex education in the case of postsecondary test scores, there is a dearth of recent studies using controls. There has been a similar lack of research on other potential criteria in this domain, such as college grade point average, meritorious scholarships or funding attained, postgraduate licensure test scores, and any career achievement that could ostensibly be tied to quality of schooling.

The Differences in Brains

The proponents seek justification for SS education in the research of the neurologists who describe physical differences in the brains of males and females and some differences in cognitive abilities.  However, as shown in the sources, there is no evidence these physiological difference equate to differences in how students learn.

An extensive review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education (Mael, Alonso, Gibson, Rogers, & Smith, 2005) found that the majority of studies comparing single-sex with coeducational schooling reported either no difference or mixed results, and other reviews reported a host of negative consequences associated with single-sex education, including increased sex role stereotyping, which may harm both boys and girls (Halpern et al., 2011; Karpiak, Buchanan, Hosey, & Smith, 2007). As reviewed below, there are some cognitive areas that show average sex differences, but the data from the research literature on intelligence and cognitive skills do not indicate that different learning environments for females and males would be advisable.

Halpern 2011:
“Brain researchers have proven that boys learn differently than girls,” said a teacher in a SS public-school classroom. This statement reflects misinformation about neurobehavioral science. Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’s brains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ brain growth, neither of which is known to relate to learning. In adults, certain sex differences have been reported (e.g., in brain activation patterns, auditory thresholds, memory performance), but none are substantial enough to justify different educational methods. Moreover, sex differences in adult brains cannot be assumed to be mirrored in children. Sex differences in adults’ neural structure or function may result from a lifetime of sex differentiated experiences rather than “hardwiring”

The observed differences between males and female brain development as seen in studies which show females are better toward language based learning while males to spatial visualization are eliminated by taking different approaches to how students are taught in a coeducational environment.

Sex differences favoring males in mental rotation, which is the ability to imagine what an object would look like if it were rotated, can be found in infants as young as three months of age (Quinn & Liben, 2008). Although this very early difference suggests a strong biological basis for the large sex differences in mental rotation, there is also strong evidence for a large sociocultural/learning contribution. For example, when female and male college students were trained with computer games that required use of spatial visualization, this intervention reduced the gap between male and female performance, though it was not completely eliminated (Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007). Likewise, when male and female college students were primed with positive stereotypes (“I’m a student from a selective college”) before taking an object rotation task, the gender gap in performance was nearly eliminated. When gender was primed before the test, the gender gap widened (Mc-Glone & Aronson, 2006).

ACLU 2012:
There is no evidence that brain differences translate into a need for different instructional approaches for boys and girls.13 A recent review of the literature by a multidisciplinary team of academics and experts concluded single-sex education programs are “often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.”14 In fact, the behavioral, psychological, and cognitive differences among the individual members of any group of girls or any group of boys are much greater, and more relevant from an instructional standpoint, than the differences between boys and girls as groups.

Gender Roles and Stereotypes

Some kinds of sexual discrimination are necessary to comply with the overwhelming norms of U.S. society. For example, we segregate locker rooms and restrooms and no one questions the rationale for doing so. However, it is appropriate that males and females interact in other situations and even compete.  The concerns which arise from social and competitive segregation of the sexes are discussed.

Halpern 2011:
Research has demonstrated that, when environments label individuals and segregate along some characteristic (e.g., gender, eye color, or randomly assigned t-shirt groups), children infer that the groups differ in important ways and develop increased intergroup biases. Such effects have been shown explicitly for gender even within coeducational classes, and it is likely that these effects would be even more powerful when sex is used to divide children into entirely separate classrooms or schools rather than merely into separate lines to go to lunch.

Mael 2005:
Sex-role stereotyping refers to the endorsement of traditional attitudes toward the roles that men and women should take in the workplace. In general, stereotyping of this nature refers to the notion that women can take only certain roles in the workplace, whereas men can take broader, more powerful roles in the workplace. Two studies examined the likelihood that others will invoke stereotypes based on sex roles. One study (50 percent) reported results in favor of SS schooling and the other (50 percent) reported results in favor of coeducation. Both studies examined SS and CE differences in sex-role stereotyping for girls with one study (50 percent) finding in favor of coeducation and the other (50 percent) finding in favor of SS schooling. In the case of boys, one study examined differences between SS and CE and yielded a null result. All participants were high school students.

Halpern 2011:
The strongest argument against SS education is that it reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to work together in a supervised, purposeful environment. When teachers make children’s sex salient, students choose to spend less time interacting with other-sex peers. Even in coeducational schools, boys and girls spend considerable time with same-sex peers, which exaggerates sex-typed behaviors and attitudes. Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive, and certain boys experience greater risk for behavior problems because they spend more time with boys. Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed. Institutionalizing gender-segregated classrooms limits children’s opportunities to develop a broader range of behaviors and attitudes. Positive and cooperative interaction with members of other groups is an effective method for improving intergroup relationships.

On Stereotypes and Segregation

For those so inclined, it is possible to build a contention around the legal status of gender-based education. The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution forbids segregation and there is a case to be made the trend to SS education is illegal.  Even logically, if any justification is given by the Pro which claims SS education helps reduce misunderstanding or sexual discrimination, who in their right minds would dare argue that racial discrimination and stereotyping can be reduced by segregating students on the basis of race?

ACLU 2012:
The widespread legal violations uncovered by our investigation underscore the need for greater public accountability and oversight by state authorities, and for more enforcement efforts at the federal level. Specifically, the Department of Education should act swiftly to rescind the 2006 regulations that have led to a widespread misunderstanding of the requirements for implementation of single-sex education in public schools, to reinstate the prior regulations, and to provide immediate and much-needed guidance making clear that programs based on sex-stereotyped instruction violate Title IX and the Constitution. Instead of spending resources, time, and effort to separate students in our public schools on the basis of their sex, we need to focus on evidence-based interventions. Research has shown that effective schools, especially for low-income students of color, consistently share strong, positive relationships between teachers and students; high expectations for students; a personalized learning environment with mentors, counseling, and other supports; high teacher quality; high parental involvement; and strong but not necessarily authoritarian leaders.49 We should focus on what we know works, rather than depriving our children of the opportunity to learn with and from a diverse group of students.

Along the lines of discrimination and stereotyping consider the definition of gender used in the resolution.  Can students rightly be divided into two groups based upon their chromosomes alone?  Gender identification can be an extremely tricky business and categorizing children in such ways threaten to confuse and isolate other students whose gender identification may be ambiguous or decidedly counter to the traditional and stereotypical divisions expected by this resolution.


The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling
Originally publish in the American Journal of Science Vol. 333
Diane F. Halpern, et al; 23 Sept 2011

Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson; 2006
Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham

Intelligence, New Findings and Theoretical Developments
Richard E. Nisbett University of Michigan, et al; 2012

Patterson, M. M., & Pahlke, E. (2011). Student Characteristics Associated With Girls’ Success in a Single-Sex School. Sex Roles, 65, 737-750. Publisher’s official version:
Open Access version:

Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review
DOC # 2005-01
Fred Mael, et al; 2005

Preliminary Findings of ACLU, “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” Campaign
PREPARED FOR U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
AUGUST 20, 2012

Friday, February 21, 2014

PF Mar 2014 - Single Gender Classrooms - Pro Prosition

Resolved: Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.

For part 1 of this analysis, click here.

The "Problem"

It seems that American students are failing to live up to their educational expectations.  Of course for years, researchers have been studying the perceived short-comings in order to ascertain and assign causes.  Recent research has increasingly focused on gender-based performance.  Differences in gender performance in education are observed in a number of empirical studies which have prompted many to find the reason why.

Resolutional Solvency

The resolution claims single-gender class rooms would improve the quality of education.

Kirner 2013:
From the vantage point of those working within and experiencing the single-sex context, the positive effects are apparent. Likewise, interviews conducted by Hubbard and Datnow (2005) of students and staff in California schools offering single-sex classes revealed that both groups felt that a major contribution to student success was the freedom from distraction from the opposite sex. In 2008, a U.S. Department of Education study found that “both principals and teachers believed that the main benefits of single-sex schooling are decreasing distractions to learning and improving student achievement.” (Hutchison & Mikulski, 2012). As part of a longitudinal study of Australian secondary schools, which had been single-sex schools and then converted to co-ed schools over a two-year period, interviews with teachers and students indicate that girls appeared to do better socially in a single-sex class (Jackson & Smith, 2000). Teachers who worked in single-sex classes and schools reported fewer discipline problems to Gurian and Henley (2001), and administrators and teachers in Florida single-sex schools reported dramatic improvement in student performance (Isensee & Vasquez, 2012).

But even if you doubt the expert opinions of the educators and administrators who work directly with students and witness, first-hand, their social and intellectual development, then consider the work of Hyunjoon Park, et al of the University of Pennsylvania who undertook a balanced study of same-sex classrooms in Seoul, Korea.  The Park study had the unique advantage of assessing the educational development of students randomly chosen to attend either same-sex or coeducational classes with not opt-out option.

Park 2012:
In this study, we have assessed causal effects of single-sex schools on college entrance exam scores and college attendance rates by exploiting a unique feature of education in Seoul, Korea in which students are randomly assigned to single-sex or coeducational high schools. Our study is the first to assess causal links between single-sex schools and educational outcomes rather than associations that may in substantial part reflect student selection of school types. We have investigated the random nature of student assignment and found comparable socioeconomic backgrounds and prior academic achievement of students attending single-sex high schools and coeducational high schools. Our analyses show that single-sex schools are causally linked with both college entrance exam scores and college-attendance rates for both boys and girls. Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools rather than attending coeducational schools is significantly associated with higher average scores on Korean and English test scores. Single-sex schools have a higher percentage of graduates who moved to four-year colleges and a lower percentage of graduates who moved to two-year junior colleges than coeducational schools. 

In the Connecticut Report cited below, Dr. Marianne Kirner presents a compendium of research from the U.S. and around the world which support the benefits of same-sex education.

Kirner 2013:

  • Mulholland, Hansen, and Kaminski (2004) compared achievement gains of boys and girls in Australian single-sex classes versus coeducational classes. They found higher gains in English grades for both girls and boys attending the single-sex classes than their co-ed counterparts; however, no data collected on the two groups yielded statistically significant differences between them.
  • Among other changes, Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis created separate freshmen academies for girls and boys. Th e graduation rate subsequently soared from 55% in 2007 to 81.6% in 2010. Th e school won the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge (Hutchison & Mikulski, 2012).
  • Harjes (2010) measured how attitudes about gender and race were diff erent in children from single-sex classrooms versus traditional classrooms. The students in single-sex environments reported more adaptive psychosocial outcomes, including lower reporting of any life difficulty and the impact of life’s difficulties on learning. Students in single-sex classes reported more adaptive attitudes about race than students overall. They scored higher in measurements of ethnic identity and belonging, and of liking individuals with an ethnic background other than their own.
  • A three-year study found a wide span in performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, depending on whether the students were in single-sex classrooms. Girls in traditional classes achieved proficiency on the test 59 percent of the time, while girls in single-sex classrooms achieved proficiency at a rate of 75 percent. The boys had a far more significant difference: just 37 percent from traditional classes were proficient, compared to 86 percent from all-boys classrooms. Similarly, 37% of boys in coeducational classes scored proficient, compared with 86% of boys in the all-boys classes (Hutchison & Mikulski, 2012).

Sexual Dimorphism

There is undeniable evidence of differences between males and females in the development of the human brain.  In addition, many of the differences are noted in areas of the brain with sexual hormone receptors.  For example, females tend to have higher concentrations in the regions of the brain responsible for language cognition and some studies suggest these differences may account for learning differences between the sexes at various stages of maturity.

Novotney 2011:
According to a 2007 longitudinal pediatric neuroimaging study led by a team of neuroscientists from the National Institute of Mental Health, various brain regions develop in a different sequence and tempo in girls compared with boys (NeuroImage, Vol. 36, No. 4). Using 829 brain scans gathered over two years from 387 subjects from 3 to 27 years old, researchers found several remarkable differences. The occipital lobe, for example — the one most associated with visual processing — shows rapid development in girls 6 to 10 years old, while boys show the largest growth in this region after 14 years old. Other studies have also shown disparities in language processing between the sexes, concluding that the language areas of the brain in many 5-year-old boys look similar to that of many 3-year-old girls (Developmental Neuropsychology, Vol. 16, No. 3). “Timing is everything, in education as in many other fields,” says Sax, author of several books on the science of sex differences, including “Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls” (Basic Books, 2010). “It’s not enough to teach well; you have to teach well to kids who are developmentally ripe for learning.” For example, asking 5-year-old boys to sit still, be quiet and pay attention is often not developmentally appropriate for them, but there are other ways to teach boys to read that don’t require boys to sit still and be quiet, he says.

While the evidence is clear, the interpretation of the evidence is controversial. Predictably, advocates of coeducation will claim the evidence is inconclusive about whether observable physical differences between the brains of males and females prove there are differences in the ability of either to learn. Measurable differences in cognitive ability (for example, females tend be more language capable and males tend to be spatially capable) are well known.

WebMD 2013:
As a whole, girls outperform boys in the use of language and fine motor skills until puberty, notes Denckla. Boys also fall prey to learning disabilities more frequently than girls. "Clinics see a preponderance of boys with dyslexia," Denckla tells WebMD. ADHD also strikes more boys than girls. The symptoms displayed by girls and boys with ADHD differ, too. Girls with ADHD usually exhibit inattention, while affected boys are prone to lack of impulse control. But not all differences favor girls. Boys generally demonstrate superiority over female peers in areas of the brain involved in math and geometry. These areas of the brain mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls, according to a recent study that measured brain development in more than 500 children. Researchers concluded that when it comes to math, the brain of a 12-year-old girl resembles that of an 8-year-old boy. Conversely, the same researchers found that areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills (such as handwriting) mature about six years earlier in girls than in boys.

While it may be claimed that in the long-run the differences in brain development have minimal cumulative effect on the ability of males and females to learn the same things, the way they learn are driven by developmental differences. In addition, the brain continues to develop throughout life and as stated in the Novotney card above, "timing is everything".  It seems intuitive that if educators can design curricula which leverage the differences between the sexes at the appropriate ages in which certain kinds of skills emerge, then the Pro side of the debate has validity.

Quality of Education

This is such an unfortunate term, in my opinion.  The quality of education, it seems can be effected by so many things external to students learning ability.  For example, schools which have more money can provide a better quality of education than schools which are on the verge of bankruptcy and which have few educational resources and tools.  For the purposes of this debate, we must focus on those elements indicative of quality education as measured by the response and performance of students in accordance with the tools and resources available.  This means, if a poor school system measures student progress in a coeducational environment and the same poor school system measures student progress in a gender specific environment and notes improvement, then we must affirm.  We could measure the "improvement" in order to Affirm the resolution and the most common way to measure that performance is use the kinds of measures the federal government uses to evaluate proficiency. But...

Breslow 2007:
Educational research is tricky business. Methodologies that are used to measure student learning each have their own limitations and biases, and no method can be counted on to be completely error free. That is why best practice in educational research dictates triangulating the data. If several different sources of data are used, it increases the probability that the findings present an accurate picture. In other words, the strongest assessment programs will rely on a mix of direct and indirect measures. Indirect measures include data from surveys of seniors and alumni, retention rates, graduation rates, number of students progressing to advanced degrees, etc. They allow administrators, faculty, researchers, and consumers to infer the benefits to students from their years in college, but they cannot report with precision exactly what students have learned or what they are capable of doing as a result of their university education. Historically, these kinds of data have been collected by offices of institutional research, alumni offices, etc. Direct measures provide more evidence of the increase in students’ knowledge and abilities over a period of time. Standardized tests as, for example, the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) are one kind of direct measure. While the CLA assesses general education skills, other standardized tests can measure specific disciplinary knowledge. The Force Concept Inventory, for instance, is used to determine students’ understanding of concepts in mechanics. Other examples of direct measures include assignments that ask students to perform some kind of conceptual task (e.g., create a concept map) or portfolios compiled over a course of study. It is important to emphasize that these student work products need to be systematically reviewed for evidence of learning in order for them to be of most use. For example, rubrics can be developed and used by groups of faculty or educational researchers to analyze papers, thesis, or portfolios in order to assess learning. Grades, of course, can also be a measure of learning although how the grades are determined and reported can sometimes undermine their usefulness. 

Pro will find it very difficult to refer to good studies showing direct correlation between student outcomes and same-sex education.  I included the Park, et al study because in my opinion it represents one of the best and studies of its kind which measured outcomes by looking at college enrollments among other things.  Obviously, Con will have counter-evidence for most evidence which claims improvement in standardized tests. In 1999, Diane Pollard looked at many of the extant studies and isolated several important indicators which can point to an overall improvement in the "quality" of education.

Pollard 1999:
In spite of the shortcomings of the existing research on single-sex classes, some common threads seem to permeate current studies that suggest some possible positive effects of these classes for girls. Three of these threads are described here.
First, one finding across studies suggests that single-sex classes are useful for girls because they establish comfortable places in which girls can learn and explore the world. This benefit is evident from the self-reports in the literature about single-sex classes in math and science, and the same finding emerges from our study of the after-school programs.
Second, single-sex classes provide an opportunity for girls to consider issues of gender identity and the variety of roles girls and women can consider in today’s and tomorrow’s society. Evidence from both the literature and our research in the African-centered schools suggest that girls in single-sex classrooms can be more easily encouraged to explore a range of roles and options.
Third, single-sex classes may be particularly helpful to girls at the developmental level of early adolescence. This suggestion must be interpreted with caution, however, since it could be an artifact of the large number of studies conducted with middle school students. Fewer studies appear to have involved secondary or elementary school students. However, consideration of the developmental changes associated with early adolescence suggests that this is a time when girls become particularly concerned about their sexual identity as they deal with the changes of puberty. Since girls tend to mature earlier than boys, single-sex classes at the sixth- or seventh-grade level offer a particularly salient advantage for girls. At the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, such classes may help both boys and girls cope with the developmental changes of early adolescence. Finally, there may be an indirect positive effect for girls that could emanate from some single-sex classes for boys. In particular, one relatively important component of the classes for boys in the African-centered school Cheryl Ajirotutu and I studied has been an explicit consideration of issues of gender bias and the roles that boys and men play in contributing to the social and psychological oppression of women and girls. We do not know yet how widespread these types of considerations are in other classes for African American boys.
Thus, I expect the quality of education will be measured in more abstract terms and other ways than standardized tests but the terms which define improved quality should resonate with judges.


Causal Effects of Single-Sex Schools on College Entrance Exams and College Attendance: RandomAssignment in Seoul High Schools; University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons
Hyunjoon Park, Jere R. Behrman, Jaesung Choi; 2012

Single-Sex Education: The Connecticut Context; State Education Resource Center
Marianne Kirner, Ph.D; 2013

Coed versus single-sex ed
Does separating boys and girls improve their education? Experts on both sides of the issue weigh in.
American Psychological Association
Amy Novotney
February 2011, Vol 42, No. 2

How Male and Female Brains Differ
Researchers reveal sex differences in the brain's form and function.

Methods of Measuring Learning Outcomes and Value Added
Developed in 2007 by Lori Breslow, Director, Teaching and Learning Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (, with input from
Anne Faye (Carnegie Mellon University), Lydia Snover (MIT), and Barbara Masi (MIT) 

Single-Sex Education
By Diane S. Pollard
School of Education, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee

Thursday, February 20, 2014

LD Mar/Apr 2014 -- Political Conditions on Humanitarian Aid - Neg Position

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

For part one of this topic, click here.

Neg Position

The Negative side of this debate has several paths for advocacy.  While it may seem obvious the Neg should claim that placing political conditions on humanitarian aid IS NOT unjust, the way in which one says it needs to be very carefully considered.  In the world of debate, all things are possible and every position can be upheld as long as one can show the benefits outweigh the harms.  Quite often, advancing these kinds of cost-benefit analyses reduces the need to directly refute the opponent's claims.  In addition, if the recipient country agrees to the donors' conditions, in most cases, the world would be a "better" and perhaps more secure place since the conditions include things like non-proliferation, ending human rights abuses, and advancing democratic principles. Failure of the recipient to agree is seen as a failure of the recipient government.  So, now I know you are thinking, that position has no weight when the well-being of thousands of human beings are at stake.

Consider the United States as an example of a nation which often attaches political conditions on humanitarian aid.  The situations which ultimately result in need for humanitarian aid come in two flavors; natural and man-made (or let's say government-made).  Natural disasters occur, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, droughts and devastating storms and no one can justly be blamed for these occurrences.  The lives of thousands are suddenly in jeopardy and capable nations like the U.S. will respond to avert the human tragedy without conditions. On the other hand, many humanitarian crises are the result of the decisions of other humans, specifically governments.  Things like wars, revolutions, failed economic policies, and the like can and do result in human tragedies which demand humanitarian aid and capable nations like the U.S. say, "we will help but first you must agree to...". Consider, North Korea as an example of a state with dire need for humanitarian aid which seem to arise from the failed policies of the government.  The Korean government's refusal to "play nice" with other nations has resulted in crippling sanctions which in turn have exacerbated their internal humanitarian crisis.  While we can debate the justification of sanctions (indeed we did) another time, we can still claim the conditions which lead to humanitarian disaster arise from the decisions made by the host government and not natural causes.  Rushing in to help in these situations is seen as propping up the failed policies of the host government.  Having said that, it is important to note that even in North Korea when the humanitarian crisis elevate to the level of most dire emergency, the U.S. will act despite preconditions. Finally, debaters need to be alert to the differences between humanitarian aid and development aid.  The latter almost always comes with strings attached but is non-topical in this debate.  However, another very important point must be made.  Sometimes, drawing distinctions between humanitarian and development is not easy since the two can be very closely linked.  The ability of a nation to respond to and recover from disasters (natural or man-made) is an important consideration when deciding to "rush in" with aid.  Humanitarian aid tends to be short-term and not sustainable.  It is reasonable to expect some donors will say, "we will help you once again but you've got to change this or that policy in order to be resilient in the future..." These demands are aimed toward development and policy decisions which reduce the impact of future crises.

Framing a Neg position based on the foregoing discussion brings us back to the question of whether nations (or organizations, or corporations) are moral agents.  I have long believed and held that governments have a responsibility to uphold utilitarian principles of maximizing good for the greatest number.  This does not mean governments should allow egregious harms against minorities or the disadvantaged in order to promote the interests of the majority.  In debate, we speak of democratic ideals, social contracts, and the responsibility of governments in broad terms.  The moral principles which guide the behavior of individuals are not necessarily applicable to societies or governments.  Still, debaters must find some way to convey the rightness or wrongness of the actions taken by states and the cost-benefit analysis, which, in my opinion, supports the utilitarian framework, is one such valid measure.

Another interesting position and one I explore more completely in this analysis, is the idea that perhaps humanitarian aid, in the era of modern conflicts and politics is inherently immoral.  This excludes the kinds of aid which are typically given without conditions such as in the wake of natural disasters.  If aid promotes the kinds of suffering it is intended to relieve or if it promotes colonial or pro-western ideological thinking, perhaps the only way to resolve the resulting moral dilemmas is to attach political conditions.

The Downside of Humanitarian Aid

Perhaps it is quite natural and simple to take the view that if lives are in danger, steps must be taken help and indeed, in the world of individual decision making, the deontological decision maker will act purely from the desire to do the right thing without seeing the victims as a mere means to an end.  However, that is not that kind of philosophical mandate which motivates the antagonists in modern conflicts.

... there is a darker side to humanitarian assistance, for the same aid intended to alleviate suffering caused by conflict has the capacity to exacerbate and prolong conflict, further compromising the safety of those individuals to whom they aim to deliver assistance. Relief agencies, long beholden to the principle of neutrality, along with impartiality and independence, have been confronted with the idea that, although well intended, aid can often have a non-neutral effect on war. Amid rising criticism of the negative effects of aid, relief agencies have been forced to reflect on their harmful capabilities and reassess the ethics of their work. Simply ‘doing good’ may not be good enough.

One aspect of modern conflicts which leads to humanitarian suffering is the increasing tendency to use populations of citizens as the tools for achieving political objectives.  Thus, humanitarian efforts are manipulated as a means to control populations to the benefit of the antagonists.

Groves 2007:
New wars are closely tied to the notion of failed states. Within this environment, the distinctions between ‘war’, ‘organised crime’ and ‘human rights violations’ is blurred (Kaldor, 2006: 2). The actors which are party to the conflict are not merely regular armies, but ‘paramilitary units, local warlords, criminal gangs, [and] police forces’ (ibid: 9). Although they ‘may fight for one side, they are rarely under the full control of the structures of war’ (Anderson, 1999: 12). Where no one group can prevail militarily, actors must ‘try to control political territory politically’; however, in the absence of the ability to win hearts and minds, ‘fear and hate’ are utilised (Kaldor, 2006a: 7). Anderson writes that ‘rather than appeal to a constituency by enunciating a set of principles’, leaders have searched ‘their national histories and selected characteristics that differentiated people from each other’ (1999: 9)...The ethnic cleansing and systematic displacement, which have been witnessed in numerous post-Cold War conflicts are therefore not simply a side effect of war, but ‘an explicit objective’ (Bradbury, 1995: 5). The degeneration of national frameworks and structures which facilitate these processes (Shaw, 2000: 17) can also leave aid agencies and NGOs as the sole providers of security and essential services for millions of targeted civilians (DeMars, 1996: 81). Simultaneously however, the strong emphasis on identity within new wars means that aid distribution can easily aggravate tensions between communities;

When humanitarian aid is seen and manipulated as a strategic resource, the results can lead to an order of magnitude increase in the rates of death and suffering of innocent civilians.

Groves 2007:
The military benefits associated with controlling access to resources have long been recognised (for example, see Sun Tzu’s Art of War). However, it is only relatively recently that the humanitarian community has begun to investigate the implications of this for the politics of aid. Actors can control aid access through various means. Most commonly noted is the sovereign government’s ability to deny agencies and NGOs the necessary permission or security guarantees to work in rebel held areas (African Rights, 1994: 3-4). Meanwhile, Prendergast reports that in turn, rebels have used violence ‘to limit aid flows into government areas’ (1996: 18). Such strategies have been employed to devastating effect; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) estimates that dead to wounded ratios increased from 1:4 to 10:1 in Burundi because of limitations on humanitarian access (in Buckley, 1996: 9; MSF, 2004). However, the implications go beyond the inevitable increase in immediate mortality rates; the deployment (or not) of resources has ‘profound impacts on economies and power structures’ (Prendergast, 1996: 58).

The attention given to humanitarian relief diverts attention from the underlying causes of disaster and tends to relieve leaders of the responsibilities they ordinarily must face for their own failings.

Groves 2007:
Recent analysis of famines demonstrates that humanitarian aid affects social and political contracts between groups and their leaders. When outsiders provide substantial relief, the result may be that leaders are abrogated of their welfare responsibilities and can instead devote their energies and resources to war-fighting. De Waal has noted that ‘history is replete with successful methods of preventing famine’ and that ‘common to them are versions of [a] political contract that impose political obligations on rulers’. These ‘anti-famine contracts’ are enforced by holding leaders accountable for their actions (2002: 5). They assert that famine is not a failing of the system, but instead occurs as a result of deliberate political violence (Sen, 1981). When an emphasis is placed on assigning responsibility for crises leaders are held accountable by society and as a result there is an incentive for them to work for the interests of their people (de Waal, 2002: 5). Conversely, when aid agencies and NGOs take responsibility for the welfare of populations, the disaster is reframed as humanitarian and the political responsibilities which leaders have to their people are undermined (Edkins, 2002: 12; Bradbury, 1995: 168).

The Moral Dilemma

One of of the age-old philosophical dilemmas revolve around the "drowning man" scenario.  Is there a moral obligation to rescue the drowning man if means the rescuers life is endangered or if there is a risk others may drown during the rescue attempt? Often, circumstances arise in which humanitarian aid would serve to prolong the kind of conditions which would lead to more suffering in the future or result in danger to the aid workers.  Organizations which provide aid are forced to reassess their desire for political neutrality to avoid potential moral dilemmas.

The course of action that aid agencies decide to take depends upon a development of ethics around moral dilemmas that starts with deciding where one stands in the ancient philosophical debate about the nature of goodness and the limits of moral responsibility. There are deontological, or duty-based, ethics that believe that certain actions, such as healing wounds, are intrinsically good. This approach is countered by teleological, or goal- based ethics, which are more concerned with the wider consequences of an action. From this perspective, healing a person’s wounds is not always good if that person is then able to return to war to kill innocent people. Assessment of good is much easier for deontologists whose ethics are mere matter of doing one’s duties, whereas teleological ethics are much more complicated and uncertain.³³ Agencies which adopt the latter approach can only justify distribution of aid by its potential to do more good than harm. Rony Brauman states, “From a moral standpoint, weighing the pain inflicted against the pain avoided is an impossible endeavor.”³⁴ For a consequentialist, providing aid, knowing that it is being manipulated to intensify and prolong conflict presents a moral dilemma, In this case, providing aid causes harm, yet a decision to withdraw aid counters the most fundamental element of the humanitarian mandate to provide assistance to those in need.

Colonialism and the Gift Critique

The giving of aid can be considered inherently immoral because of the ideological basis behind why it is given.  The concept of moral correctness may be a based upon a greater requirement to establish moral dominance on less-fortunate individuals.  In addition, it creates a reciprocal response which binds the recipient to the donor.

Sajed 2005:
Tomohisa Hattori (2003) traces the sources of the current imperative for foreign aid to a long tradition of giving. The act of giving creates or reinforces a certain social relationship and an obligation to reciprocate the gift. This expectation of reciprocation is a “balanced social relationship between equals” (232-3). Forgoing the obligation to reciprocate creates an unequal relationship, whereby the donor situates herself in the position of a generous, benevolent being that extends her grace and favours to an inherently destitute and deprived other. It is precisely this sort of attitude that is so prevalent among humanitarian actors, as it will be shown below. Thus the “institutionalization of giving,” whether referring to states donating to other less developed states, to states and private actors donating to aid agencies, or to aid agencies donating to the ‘less fortunate,’ reinforces and legitimizes, on ethical grounds, a material status quo. Such a material hierarchy becomes rewritten into a moral one (Ibid.: 237). It is strange that while acknowledging this attitude, Hattori glosses over it in an attempt to prove that what matters here is that states are ethically motivated when engaging in practices of giving. I think that the element that should be of deep concern is the “ethical boundary between donor and recipient,” which she acknowledges, but without giving it the weight it deserves. This boundary serves not only to reinforce “the material as a moral order of things,” but also to sell an image of “magnanimity” whereby an innate superior generosity and nobility is opposed to an inherent deprivation and to an inferior way of life. 

Sajed 2005:
As Brauman (1998) aptly remarks, “to do good is accompanied by a feeling of omnipotence,” “an excessive and smug faith in the morality of humanitarian action” (192). Humanitarianism’s self-expressed goal, as purported by International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) creed, is to save lives, all lives, and feed and cure people, all people, without any regard to political consequences. Since humanitarian action is and should be completely apolitical and neutral, why should aid workers be preoccupied with the consequences of their actions, which are very much political? It is puzzling that such an attitude has been embraced for decades, in spite of the disastrous consequences it provoked. How is it possible that in situations characterized by such deep political conflict and turmoil, in which the very idea and action of assistance is a sort of intervention, we can comfortably believe that our actions will have no political consequences, that our endeavours are protected by a vacuum of neutrality that seals all implications shut? I think it is important to note that one of the main causes for the tragic consequences of humanitarian action is specifically this divide between the political and the humanitarian/ethical, this unproblematic embrace of neutrality and impartiality as flawless guidelines (see Brauman 1998; Brauman 2000; Warner 1999).

Politicization Is Inevitable

The evidence shows the distribution of aid can be a highly political activity; inherently political in the context of modern conflict and struggles which lead to such humanitarian crises.  To reject politicization is tantamount to rejecting humanitarian aid.  But even if one does not buy that argument, the evidence clearly confirms the destructive nature of humanitarian aid as a tool to be exploited by factions serving self-interests.  Under these circumstances, the need for political preconditions may be the only way to mitigate the harms and get the aid to the people that deserve it.

Sajed 2005:
This ethics of responsibility needs to be subjected to the “sieve” of moral norms, so that the “alterity of persons, inherent to the very idea of human plurality” should not clash violently with the “universality of rules that uphold the idea of humanity” (Ricoeur 1990: 305). The universality of rules needs to be adapted to the historicity and contextuality of every specific situation, so that the notion of respect should not split into respect for the law versus respect for people. I argue that this split took place in the case of humanitarian action. The experiences in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, and Rwanda prove that the depoliticized principles of universality, neutrality and impartiality have devastating consequences. For the purpose of upholding these principles, people’s lives and protection were sacrificed.

Slim 2004:
Human needs do pre-exist politics. And one can even become suitably passionate about this idea until, of course, you are displaced, widowed and hungry yourself in a place like Darfur, northern Uganda or Iraq. Then, you know that your deprivation is politically made and that, if they are to be met, your needs will have to be politically realised somehow. It becomes obvious then that your needs are deeply political. Your various general needs may pre-exist this war and be a defining part of your very human-ness but your specific needs are shaped by and dependent on the politics of your current situation. This is when you also need politicians - good ones - to help meet your needs. And this is when humanitarians need politicians too - to supply aid, to respect humanitarian law and to generate political solutions.

For an overview of cases I judged, click here.


Course: Interactive Models to Cope with Destructive Social Conflicts Instructor: Sapir Handelman
Anna Rose Siegel 31 July 2011
Approaches to Humanitarianism:Eliminating Band Aids and Banned Aid

The Politics of Aid: Helping Darfur?

How Aid Negatively Impacts Conflict: The Moral and Practical Dilemmas Faced by Humanitarian Organizations
Randi L.S. Lassiter

Between Scylla and Charybdis: The Ethical and Moral Dilemmas of Humanitarian Action
YCISS Working Paper Number 31 January 2005Alina Sajed
PhD Candidate, McMaster University

Politicizing Humanitarian Action According to Need
Presentation to the 2nd International Meeting on Good Humanitarian
Donorship, Ottawa, 21-22 October 2004
Hugo Slim
Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

LD Mar/Apr 2014 - Political Conditions on Humanitarian Aid - Aff Position

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

For part one of this topic, click here.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood;” Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Japan and other subordinate forces of the United States too are increasing their pressure against us by linking humanitarian aids with numerous political issues like nuclear program and normalization of ties," Spokesperson for North Korean Government

Affirmative Position

The March 2013 topic in LD was similar to this one, dealing with the justification to intervene in the internal politics of other countries to advert human rights abuses.  I would encourage you to thoroughly read my postings on the previous topic beginning here.  You might useful evidence and it can help familiarize you with some of the terminology and concepts found in this debate.

To be sure, there are many kinds of circumstances which prompt the world to respond to humanitarian crises in an effort to alleviate suffering.  Natural disasters, such as earthquakes quite often spark responses that are free of any political "strings".  But the fact that not every kind of humanitarian intervention is predicated on political intent, does not affect the Affirmative position in any way.  We can debate those situations where political conditions do exist or we can debate the general principle and Affirm that political conditions should never be a prerequisite for humanitarian aid.

Researching this topic shows that we can expand the debate for the Affirmative by realizing that not only may political conditions be attached to recipients but also upon the donors and this was an angle I was not seeing previously.

Affirmative debaters will have few problems finding evidence but some care must be used to avoid discussion of development assistance (unless your definitions include it) and humanitarian intervention (military involvement to protect citizens).  My approach to this analysis will be to present basic contentions with related sources and then concentrate on the framework which, I believe, will be all important.

The Status Quo

First, we establish that humanitarian aid is often given with "strings attached" in the status quo.

Curtis 2001:
In response to the discriminatory policies and practices of the Taliban, donors and some aid agencies have imposed punitive conditionalities, including on security, gender equality and development/capacity-building. The net impact has been the restriction of the right to humanitarian assistance, and the inability of the international assistance community to adequately address short-term life-saving needs. According to Atmar, the irony is that donors continue to use punitive conditionalities, even though they have not produced the desired political and social changes, and have had negative humanitarian consequences.

Fillemon 2011:
Western countries have set and marked donations of developmental and/or humanitarian aid as the conduit of strengthening their international relations with the African continent. However, despite what may be the constitutive intentions behind the giving of a specific aid, these types of donations have great negative impact on the continent than the benefit. These donations are of retrogressive effect, than the progressive one to the indigenous efforts aimed at the continental-economic recovery by the African people, within and beyond the continental boundaries. Of obviousness, the whole world is aware that aids are given with ulterior motive on the side of donors that is if the attached conditions are not the befitting descriptive phrase. In most instances, aids are given on the basis or in pursuit of diplomatic approval, military ally, commercial or economic and in exchange of cultural influence. Generally, group of donors, may include individuals, private organizations or governments.

Volberg 2006:
Humanitarian assistance has always been a highly political activity, as it involves engaging authorities in conflict-affected countries or relying on financial support that can be driven by a donor’s political considerations. Nowadays, relief organizations seem to remain even less in control of their working environment due to expanding peacekeeping and “military-led” missions of the United Nations, regional organizations or major Western powers in armed conflicts. Furthermore, they are confronted with a growing scale of human rights abuses and the targeting of civilians, including humanitarian workers. However, the necessity to interact with armed groups started to blur the line between military policies and relief missions, making humanitarian action appear to be increasingly tied to the overall political response of donor countries to complex emergencies. This working environment is making it difficult for relief organization to maintain their neutrality and to avoid political manipulation.

The Harms

The harms arising from the politicization of humanitarian aid can be described as direct harms resulting in the suffering of individuals due to political restrictions limiting the distribution of aid.  The harms can also be seen indirectly due to the aura of distrust which permeates the politicized arena in which aid orgainizations are forced to operate.

Pilar 1999:
In a problematic context like Afghanistan under the Taliban with civil war continuing in the North it is essential for humanitarian aid to not be seen as part of any political camp. This is important for security reasons, but also to maintain credibility for an impartial approach to aid. However, this attempt by some NGOs to remain true to humanitarian principles has been jeopardised by UN organisations and donor governments. [see source for specific examples]

Further, it can be argued the politicization of humanitarian aid harms the underlying principles of universality, impartiality, independence and neutrality.

Curtis 2001:
According to Pasquier, the new form of politicisation of humanitarian aid may challenge all four of these principles. Universality and impartiality imply that humanitarian action should reach all conflict victims, no matter where they are, or which side they support. Impartiality means that humanitarian response should be guided by need alone, and that there should be no distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ beneficiaries. Yet by subordinating humanitarian objectives to political and strategic ones, some victims may be seen as more deserving than others, and impartiality is foregone. For instance, Skuric-Prodanovic shows that the level of humanitarian response in Serbia in the second half of 1999 was much lower than in Albania and Macedonia. In Montenegro, humanitarian aid was also more than abundant. These differences did not correspond to different levels of need. Skuric-Prodanovic argues that few donors were willing to fund humanitarian assistance in Serbia, and few international NGOs were willing to face the difficulties of working there, and therefore chose the more prominent and ‘politically correct’ Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

Structural Politics

There is a body of research which suggests the distribution of aid is almost always carried out with the interests of the donor in mind and thus there is an inherent politicization which serves self-interests.

Cunningham 2012:
An excellent example of donor nation self-interest can be found in the case of rice imports from the United States relative to the livelihoods of American farmers. The 2008 U.S. Farm Bill provides subsidies for American farm production and creates price controls and barriers to foreign food imports, creating artificial incentives for increased production by American farmers (Lehrer 2010, 640). While this benefits American producers, it inevitably creates unusable surpluses. In 2011, for example, there were 1.128 billion bushels of surplus corn (Wilson 2012). Food aid provided a potential solution, turning “the problem of surplus stocks into an opportunity to pursue strategic, welfare, and economic policies” (Friedmann 1993, 35). Thus, food aid actually benefits the American economy by allowing prices to remain elevated while simultaneously disposing of surpluses, regardless of their externalities for the recipients of food aid. 

Cunningham argues the pursuit of "strategic, welfare, and economic policies" are overt moves by the government of the United States to ensure its own security as a global superpower by projecting itself as the leader in maintaining the "moral high-ground".  Thus, even the well-intended donations of NGOs are tied to political conditions which benefit the U.S.

Cunningham 2012:
Because this aid is tied, it comes with certain requirements, such as branding, obliging those who implement humanitarian aid programs to submit to donor policies for funding. According to Mark Ward, the Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance: 
The United States Government, through USAID, requires the NGOs we fund to ‘brand’ the assistance they provide to people in need with the Agency’s handshake, logo and the words ‘From the American people’ in local languages. Branding is not just required by law; it ensures transparency when America provides aid. We believe that the people we  help have a right to know where their assistance is coming from (Ward, 2010).

This provides a very interesting contention for the Affirmative debater as it demonstrates the existence of a "humanitarian aid regime" driven by self-interests which forces political conditions on other aid organizations which depend upon the regime to deliver their assistance in the regions requiring humanitarian aid. After all, if not for military transport and government personnel and equipment, most aid could never reach the affected.

The Value Framework

The obvious values for this debate can be surmised directly from the wording of the resolution.  From the term, "unjust" we can derive the value of justice.  Several approaches for justice exist within the context of this debate which are supported by the evidence.  Justice is commonly defined as "giving each his due" which is related to the concept of the proportional distribution of "just desserts" (awards and punishments).  Justice is also founded in principles of equity and fairness for which we can look to the philosophy of John Rawls, the Veil of Ignorance and the Difference Principle. I could take a lot of time to explain these, but at this point in the season, you should be well-acquainted with Rawls.  As we have seen in the Curtis paper cited below and quoted above, politicization of humanitarian aid can compromise the core values of universality, impartiality, independence and neutrality (each of which can be a value or incorporated into a criterion for upholding the value).  Politicization is inherently discriminatory and thus undermines justice according to the criteria championed by John Rawls.

CSO (undated):
...justice is associated with equity, equality, human rights, fairness, respect, integrity, trust, empowerment, dignity, kindness, appreciation, people development, community development, contribution, dialogue, democracy, participation and also with values like responsibility, care, empathy, social intelligence, intuition, sensitivity, service, sharing, generosity, volunteerism, compassion, selflessness and positive impact on society. It is also associated with the values of peace, social stability, non-violence, security, law abiding, ethical conduct and systemic thinking, critical thinking, interconnectedness, holism, cultural diversity and oneness of humanity. There are also related values as health, education, worker safety, business ethics, environmental sustainability, intergenerational equity, community and individual wellbeing, and accountability

Wortel 2009:
It is interesting that [Jean] Pictet describes humanity, in the sense of charity, as a (universal) encounter. It is worthwhile comparing this to what the German philosopher Marin Buber argues about an encounter in I and Thou: that in a genuine encounter, the receiver must also be viewed as worthy by the giver. If not, the encounter is fundamentally instrumental in nature: such ‘I–it’ relations are oriented toward domination because they are relations in which the subject (the ‘I’) takes its partner (the ‘it’) as an object. If this is what is implied, it should be impossible to speak of humanitarian aid, and the value of humanity, in instrumental terms. In fact, in this encounter with the Other it is very likely that one becomes concerned and involved with the situation of the Other. As a result, if injustice is being done, the urge is to act for the ‘good’ of one’s fellow human beings. What exactly this ‘good’ for one’s fellow man consists of is a question that, for Pictet, was one that ‘hardly arises … in connection with the Red Cross’ and, according to him, was not relevant. However, from the events discussed below it is obvious that this has become an elementary question: what exactly was the ‘good’ for Jews in Nazi Germany, Ibos in Nigeria or Rwandan Hutu refugees in Zaire? In these cases, for many humanitarians the ‘good’ is related to the ideal, or value, of justice. When this value of justice implies that some deserve aid more than others, there could be a tension within the definition of humanity itself.

Tied to the definition of "unjust" is the concept of morality which we define as correct behavior.

Wortel 2009:
The concept of value is used broadly, and usually refers to ideals or things that we consider valuable. Moral values are qualities people deem important because they contribute to a good and meaningful life. They usually indicate that there is a deep motivation to act on this value. A principle, on the other hand, is typically described as a (general) guiding rule for behaviour which can be based on an (underlying) moral value.

The Wortel source is a very good aid in establishing grounds for the Affirmative value framework, especially with respect to this resolution.  Wortel discusses, at length, the core values implicit in the International Red Cross, Code of Conduct.

Wortel 2009:
With the explicit claim that the principle of humanity ‘stands on its own in the doctrine of the Red Cross’,51 the original moral value (and perhaps virtue) as defined by Dunant became a norm – as such, it can be interpreted as an absolute duty or an obligation.52 In fact, in an effort to give the principle of humanity an ‘imperative gloss’ by making it a moral absolute, the term ‘humanitarian imperative’ was adopted in the first principle of the Code of Conduct. Philosophers and many others will immediately relate this term to a Kantian ‘categorical imperative’ – an absolute rule that admits no exceptions and imposes an obligation. Hugo Slim argues that: ‘Those choosing the phrase “humanitarian imperative” were obviously determined to reinstate emphatically the principle of humanity that they saw as being so undermined in practice around the world – first by the perpetrators of its violation, secondly by reluctant donor governments, and finally, perhaps, by more consequentialist observers emphasizing the potentially harmful effects of humanitarian aid in certain situations’.

Trusting this overview of the moral framework is sufficient to get you thinking, I will now concentrate on the Negative position.


The Humanitarian Aid Regime in the Republic of NGO; THE FALLACY OF ‘BUILDING BACK BETTER’
The Josef Korbel Journal of Advanced International Studies - Summer 2012, Volume 4 OLIVER CUNNINGHAM, University of Denver, M.A., International Political Economy


Politics and Humanitarian Aid: Debates, Dilemmas and Dissension
Report of a conference organised by ODI, POLIS at the University of Leeds and CAFOD, London, 1 February 2001
Devon Curtis, PhD candidate in the Department of International Relations at the London School of
Economics and Political Science.

The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality
European Master’s Degree in International Humanitarian Assistance Ruhr-University of Bochum, Academic Year 2005/2006
Thornsten Volberg

Humanitarian Space Under Siege Some Remarks from an Aid Agency’s Perspective
Background paper prepared for the Symposium„ Europe and Humanitarian Aid - What Future? Learning from Crisis“, 22 and 23 April 1999 in Bad Neuenahr
Ulrike von Pilar, Médecins Sans Frontières

Values-based Indicators for Sustainable Development: DRAFT handbook for Civil Society Organisations On Values: Understanding Justice
Civil Society Organizations (CSO)

Humanitarians and their moral stance in war: the underlying values;Selected Article on Humanitarian Law
Eva Wortel 2009

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PF March 2014 - Single Gender Classrooms - Introduction

Resolved: Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.


Single-gender (with respect to education)
The following definition is taken from a Austin Independent School District white paper:

The term single-gender education, also known more broadly as single-sex education refers to elementary, secondary, or and postsecondary educational settings in which male and female students attend school exclusively with members of their own gender. Most educators and researchers extend this term to include “dual academies,” in which both male and female students attend school at a single campus, but take classes that are segregated by gender. In most instances, nonacademic activities at dual academies (e.g., meals, sports, and extracurricular programs) are also segregated. The term singlegender education typically is not used to refer to coeducational settings in which segregated classes are offered only in selected subjects.

This resolution specifies, classrooms, which of course are rooms in schools.  It is not clear, based on the wording, if the schools themselves should be single-gender as defined for this resolution.  Within the context of a classroom setting, we must examine the whether the quality of education would improve if the members of the class were members of a single sex.

classroom - Merriam Webster Dictionary
a room where classes are taught in a school, college, or university

improve - Merriam Webster Dictionary
to enhance in value or quality; to advance or make progress in what is desirable

quality of education
This is not easy to define.  We can look to international sources which provide definitions for quality education, but these tend to define quality of education as any form of education which preserves the fundamental human rights.  While the United States tends to have a great deal of disparity in schools, in terms of the socio-economic situations of students, the resolution does not seem to suggest a quality education as one that meets basic human needs while leveling socio-economic disparity.  Clearly, single-gender classrooms could not possibly contribute to improvement in quality of life issues. In the United States, it appears that quality of education is measured in the outcomes; that is, the learned skills of the students, the ability to succeed in higher-education, or the ranking of the students with respect to other students or against governmental expectations as measured in standardized tests. But even when such factors which define quality are understood and measured, the ability to accurately interpret the results is questioned.

Baker, undated:
Even when student achievement is measured validly, the way such findings are interpreted makes a difference. Interpretation involves relating findings to other similar measures of performance, comparing findings to the performance of other similar groups of students or schools, analyzing findings in the light of previous performance to see the development of trends over time, or looking at performance in terms of some predefined standard.

public school - Merriam Webster Dictionary
a free tax-supported school controlled by a local governmental authority


At its core, this debate will focus on whether or not student outcomes will improve if boys and girls are taught separately in public schools within the United States.  This was the norm in the 1800s but the practice gave way to coeducational schools which became more common in the 1900s culminating in a revision of federal laws in 1972 which outlawed sex discrimination in public schools. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act, once again opened the door to the expansion of single-gender public classrooms. Generally, the administration of the United States public school system falls under the legal jurisdiction of the individual states. Nevertheless, because the federal government distributes funds to supplement various programs which aid disadvantaged groups and other kinds of financial aid the federal government impose requirements of their own as a condition for receiving the funding.  Thus, programs such as No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top garner state support, even if reluctantly.

At stake in this debate is research which seems to suggest that males and females have differences in how they develop intellectually.  Separating the sexes allows curriculum designers to target the specific differences to the advantage of the students.  On the other side, the research is disputed and opponents claim the social development of students is harmed.  Indeed, the claim of opponents does raise the question of what constitutes "quality of education".  Do we measure the standard skills of reading, writing or arithmetic or must we look to broader criteria such as how students behave in social settings?

Click here for the Pro Position

Can We Fairly Measure the Quality of Education?; Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing
Eva L. Baker

Federal Rules Back Single-Sex Public Education, New York Times
DIANA JEAN SCHEMO, October 25, 2006

Monday, February 17, 2014

LD Mar/Apr 2014 - Political Conditions on Humanitarian Aid - Definitions

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.


placing - Oxford American English Dictionary
the action of putting something in position or the fact of being positioned

political - Oxford American English Dictionary
1. of or relating to the government or the public affairs of a country
2. of or relating to the ideas or strategies of a particular party or group in politics

conditions - Oxford English Dictionary
a situation that must exist before something else is possible or permitted

There are other meanings of the word conditions related to the state or well-being of something but it is clearly not the intent of this resolution.  We know from the context that "political conditions" are related to the idea of preconditions which are political in nature. Thus, humanitarian aid to foreign countries would be contingent upon some political requirements under the definitions given. I will clarify this later.

humanitarian aid
There are several good definitions for humanitarian aid which all mean essentially the same thing. This one is taken from the Humanitarian Innovative Fund which in turn, references the definition of humanitarian assistance as given by Global Humanitarian Assistance, a non-governmental agency.

"‘Humanitarian aid’ is aid and action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies."
This definition for humanitarian aid is taken from Global Humanitarian Assistance. The definition excludes any long term development assistance. The definition provides some useful examples of traditional responses to humanitarian crises:
  • Material relief assistance and services (shelter, water, medicines etc.);
  • Emergency food aid (short-term distribution and supplementary feeding programmes);
  • Relief coordination, protection and support services (coordination, logistics and communications).
  • Reconstruction relief and rehabilitation (repairing pre-existing infrastructure as opposed to longer-term activities designed to improve the level of infrastructure;
  • Disaster prevention and preparedness (disaster risk reduction, early warning systems, contingency stocks and planning).

foreign - Oxford American English Dictionary
of, from, in, or characteristic of a country or language other than one’s own
dealing with or relating to other countries

unjust - Oxford American English Dictionary
not based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair


I think it is intuitive, the topic looks to the fairness or moral correctness making the distribution of humanitarian aid contingent upon some undefined political requirements which must be carried out by the recipient foreign country.  For example, a foreign country experiences a major devastating earthquake and a donor country says, we will help you but must agree to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.  We must recognize, however, that humanitarian aid comes from many sources such as Non-government Organizations (NGOs) and governments. Further, we must note the United States is not directed specified. Therefore, while we can cite specific examples, such as assistance provided by the U.S. or China or the Red Cross, it is probably best to examine this resolution as a principle applicable to any state or organization with respect to the delivery of humanitarian aid. I am not sure if the framers of this resolution intended the debate to center on the actions of governments which often do attach political conditions to their actions. but I am sure, even NGOs may also act in similar fashion under certain circumstances.  According to our definition of "humanitarian aid", it is in response to some circumstances which threaten human lives and thus any delays resulting in waiting for the conditions to be met could result in deaths or suffering.  Also, according to our definition, the aid is intended to be temporary, that is, no longer required when the crises is over.  Not every condition which prompts the distribution of humanitarian aid develop suddenly.  We have seen countless examples of how war or revolt result in waves of refugees which tend to develop into humanitarian crises over the course of weeks or months.  Finally, we must see that humanitarian aid and developmental assistance (or aid) are not the same thing.

Even if no government or NGO has ever placed political conditions on the giving of humanitarian aid, the debate is still legitimate and one may, perhaps, consider it is the intent of the framers to debate this topic as one of general principles; "It is unjust for any donor to attach political conditions to humanitarian aid".