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Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

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Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

FIrst topic of the year! And wow is it trash. Not only is the topic phrasing awful, but I also don’t understand why it’s an LD topic at all. This topic doesn’t pose interesting clash, and it’s phrased in such a way as to have an agent of action that is incredibly difficult to evaluate as a moral agent. Not only that, we’re skirting around the actual issue of whether or not we should have standardized tests at all. It’s awful, but I suppose it’s what we have to work with. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Standardized Tests – We all know what standardized tests are. They’re tests given to all students to measure their educational progress. The tests are all the same, with the same questions, given to each member of a particular subset of students. There’s no reason to get caught up in any sort of nuance here.

Every other term in the resolution doesn’t really merit definition. We all know what colleges and universities are. Don’t get caught up in the distinction between public and private institutions; it ultimately doesn’t matter to the moral question.

Your key focus here should be determining how we evaluate what colleges and universities should do. In particular, you need to explain how we determine what factors these institutions should take into account for undergraduate school admissions. Unlike government, the moral imperatives of educational institutions are not well elucidated. Importantly, I don’t think most students will have a preliminary understanding of the philosophy of education, unlike they do with social contract philosophy, for example. I would recommending reading this entry for some background.

Case Positions

Affirmative

  1. Distributive Justice – Research widely suggests that standardized tests have socioeconomic and racial biases. This is to say that people who are poorer and people of color consistently perform worse on these tests than their wealthy white counterparts. Not only that, the entire industry is being shown to be less about evaluating students’ actual competency and instead about corporations making money. Since the first virtue of any social institution is to uphold/promote justice, colleges should do that which promotes justice. Using standardized tests as criteria in admissions directly violates principles of distributive because of the above points. Since colleges are social institutions, this would violate their primary directive. Many different justice theorists like Aristotle and John Rawls can be useful for this position.
  2. Autonomy – One of the most widely accepted theories on the purpose of education is that it is supposed to equip people for becoming autonomously functioning human beings. Standardized tests are the exact opposite; they seek to rob individuals of autonomy by evaluating everyone against the same standards. Since the purpose of education is to promote autonomy, colleges should reject anything to do with standardized tests altogether.

Negative

  1. Economics – Colleges are primarily economic institutions. Their goal is to create individuals who can best contribute to society and its economic welfare and productivity. As such, standardized tests should be a primary criteria for admissions decisions because they are a strong indication of an applicant’s economic viability. If a student has high standardized test scores, they are likely to continue having high test scores throughout college. This is economically beneficial and also a strong indication that the student will have a positive economic contribution once they graduate. Importantly, the most economically productive countries like China and Japan have doubled down on standardized testing, having even more rigorous examinations than the United States.
  2. Justice – The first virtue of any social institution, including colleges, is fairness. Standardized testing is the most fair way we can have of evaluating students. Importantly, upholding the importance of standardized tests sets an objective universal standard of educational justice for the entire system to uphold. This encourages every level of the system to eliminate barriers to students succeeding on standardized tests, which improves fairness across the board.

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck! And don’t forget to check out the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

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