Sarah Camiscoli is a shoe-leather journalist! She sat in on the College Dems vs College Republicans final debate of the year, and everyone yelled a lot.
The chalkboard in Fayerweather 313 blared: “Resolved: The public school system should be replaced with vouchers.” This was to be a long evening. Before the debate got underway, the College Republican moderator noted that this was the last debate of the year. “It’s been fun while it lasted,” he said. He then introduced Will, a passionate advocate for the abolition of public education, as someone who claims to have “killed a goat with his bare hands.”
Opening with the statement that “everyone knows” that current education system “is broken” and offering statistics such as the “increase in 185% in real dollars” that have been “thrown at” students in low income areas with “no effect,” the Republicans claimed that they wanted to offer “parents a choice” by enrolling each eligible student in the United States into a “radical voucher program” that would offer each family a sort of subsidized ticket to assist them in affording an education that would no longer be free.
To this, the Dems cited the 14th Amendment and the “responsibility of government to take an active role” in upholding the equal access constitutionally assured to each citizen. Their most poignant point was that “voucher awards are too small to offer low income families equal opportunity.” To this, the Republicans simply replied that the 14th Amendment promises “no right to an education” and that all it offers is “the right to your liberties.” The Dems corrected this statement by citing several Supreme Court rulings that upheld that the 14th Amendment does in fact extend to education. Soon, the debate boiled down to this:
Rep -“Why should everyone have an equal education? Not everyone is capable of doing the work at Columbia. Not everyone is capable of doing the work you do in your junior and senior year in high school.”
Dem- [Yelling]- “Should everyone who is poor and black not go to Columbia?”
Rep – “I don’t understand this idea of equal education.”
Dem- “You’re equating income with merit?”
Rep- “That’s how life works. If you have more money you should have more opportunity.”
After this outburst was quelled, moderators asked the Dems about the success of public schools citing statistics that spending “93% more on each person” did not increase performance. To this, the Dems spoke about the existence of low performing private schools and how the public education system is not necessarily the problem, but more so how socioeconomic factors are more influential than a school’s status as public or private. Their resolution was that is means “spend[ing] as much as it takes to get all students up to the standards that they want us to.” To this, the Republicans claimed that the Democrats are living “in a utopian world” where “the aim is everyone going to college” when the fact is that “90% are not capable.” Questioning the Republicans’ sources for such factors, they claimed it was just from “practical experience.” To this, CU Dem James Downie, responded, “Well, I am going to go with history.”
Realizing that time had run short and the unmoderated crossfire that followed this statement was not conducive for coming to a resolution, each side closed with their bipartisan beliefs on how to give children the “chance to make the fullest use of the chances given to them.” The Republican moderator noted that, “the opinions expressed by the Republican representatives do not reflect those of the College Republicans.” Bwog skipped out into the spring night, thinking wistfully of the debates of November 2008.