R: End Standardized Testing

Education policy is perhaps the most contentious set of policies for the average American.
Essentially all Americans have had bad experiences in education and fear that their children may have those same experiences, and thus armchair education politics is a staple of any family gathering.
For many parents, the bane of America's educational system is the institution of standardized testing. Many criticize the tests as too narrow-minded, often transforming the education system into a "test answers factory" rather than a way to expand a student's mental capacities, as often what is not tested is not taught. In addition, many have argued that standardized testing can disadvantage groups that would otherwise succeed, such as students from a different cultural background or with learning disorders such as dyslexia or ADD/ADHD.

However, standardized testing can also bring benefits to the educational system.A standardized testing regimen can facilitate easier access to higher education, lowering themanpower and costs needed to evaluate students. Standardized testing can also remove various biases that their administrators may have, forcing teachers to judge students based on merit. Standardized testing could even help to unite the country, allowing students from as disparate regions as Mississippi and New York to learn similar curricula.

Is standardized testing a moral issue, or only a single policy based issue? Should the federal government have thepower to force states to administer standardized tests? Are standardized tests really more accurate representations of a student's success than the alternative? Do students from across the country really need a single standardized test? Debate these questions and more at 7:30 pm in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room on Wednesday, October 4 in the debate R: End Standardized Testing.


R: Free Markets are Good for the Soul

The debate on the ethics of capitalism has run concurrently with the system itself ever since the time of Adam Smith, and perhaps even before. Many traditionalist philosophers and other members of the intelligentsia have decried capitalismś supposed severing of the community ties which existed before the market based system ended the feudal or communitarian systems of yore. Many argue that free markets lead to selfishness, uncaring individualism, and a generally lack of virtue as the pull of money begins to overtake the pull of genuine affection for fellow members of society.

At the same time, however, one would be loathe to ignore the benefits that our capitalist system has brought upon society. Global poverty has diminished exponentially when compared to the pre-capitalist, pre-industrial era. Huge, multinational businesses have allowed consumers worldwide more choices in consumption, and have been the impetus for important technological advancements. In addition, it is worth noting the failure of implementing more efficient systems on a national or global scale.

Then there is the personal aspect of the free market. How does it affect oneś own soul, rather than the soul of society? Some argue that a free marketeer is necessarily miserly and selfish due to the workings of the capitalist system, and we have all seen this greed manifested in some way or another, through uncaring corporations or simply greedy local shopowners. At the same time, there are always the Rockefellers, Carnegies, or Gates of theworld who donate immense sums of cash to important philanthropic programs.

Does a free market system cultivate or destroy virtue? What are the benefits and drawbacks of a supply and demand based economy? Must those who wish to thrive in this system necessarily leave morals behind? What alternatives to the free market system would be viable at a global scale?

Join us to debate these questions and more at 7:30 pm in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room this Wednesday, September 27th!


R: Be Grateful to the 1%

The rallying cry against "the 1%" has rung loudly in thelast few years of American politics. Politicians like Bernie Sanders have reminded us that the 1% control almost half of America's total wealth, and is receiving a huge fraction of new wealth generated as well. There is heavy evidence, in addition, that income inequality in the United States is becoming more disparate every year. In addition to thepurely material differences between the 1% and the 99%, such inequality could lead to lower community cohesion due to jealousy and a sense of unfairness, which is something that has been seen in many unequal nations throughout history.

At the same time, however, the 1% is also responsible for about half of all income tax revenue, and their gigantic corporations are responsible for another large proportion of the tax base. In addition to tax revenue, the wealthy CEOs and business-owners of America are responsible for millions of jobs throughout the country, and likely a large proportion of philanthropic giving. Throughout history, we can also see evidence of benevolence from the rich, such as the many private universities founded and funded by millionaires, and even in the pre-industrial era there was a sense of noblesse oblige which guided the actions of thefeudal Lords of midieval times.

What do we owe to the 1%? IS their material wealth theonly thanks they should get, or should we who benefit indirectly from their investment in the economy look to them with appreciation? What are the drawbacks of such inequality in the United States, and what should we as conservatives think about it? Join us at 7:30 on Wednesday, September 20 in the Pierson Fellows' Lounge to debate these questions and more!


R: America Should be the World's Police

Many international relations scholars argue that theUnited States' position as a world power is unmatched by any other nation in history. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been left without an equal, having the largest economy and military budget on Earth. Even as nations such as China and Russia attempt to throw their weight on the world stage, America remains theprimary influence in the world...for now.

Many argue that with this great power, our nation holds a great responsibility: The responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Some see our gigantic military as a possible force for good in the world, remembering its important role in the Second World War and in many wars since. Others, however, may argue that our nation is not virtuous or skilled enough to wield thesword that it is given, citing the results of our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

With its power, what responsibility does the United States have to the world? When is foreign intervention justified? Is America's government virtuous enough to choose when to intervene? What would a world without a "world police" look like? 

Join us this Wednesday, September 13 at 7:30 pm in theBerkeley Mendenhall Room to discuss these questions and more!


R: Run from Public Office

For better or for worse, America's political system, as well as thepolitical systems of most of the rest of the world, are filled with professional politicians. But were all of these lawmakers thepragmatic policy-pushers that we know them as today? It is likely that many of them arrived to Washington as idealists, hoping to stay true to their beliefs and to use them to change their nation for the better. They may have discovered, however, that to get things done in our political system, one must often abandon his or her beliefs in thename of politcal progress. Some likely compromised their beliefs inthe hopes of gaining concessions for their most important initiatives, but others likely felt forced to abandon their ideals in the search forthe ever-present voting populace's approval. Paradoxically, however, these compromises are sometimes the only way to pass real policy that affects the lives of millions. 

In this debate, we will discuss the question of whether it is virtuous to enter politics. Can one traverse the murky world of politics without leaving with an irreparably damaged moral compass, or should we agree that politics should be left to the more unscrupulous types? Is compromise absolutely necessary in lawmaking, or can one remain totally faithful to his or her morality and still be an efficient politician? Should the virtuous be our lawmakers, regardless of their training? Questions like these will likely arise as we debate the virtues and vices of public office.