One Easy Tip for Overcoming the Side Bias on the March PF Topic


Across the country, PFers are grumbling about the side bias in this month’s resolution. Without a doubt, the most common comment we’ve received in March is “it is too hard to be pro on this topic!” The best research seems to lean con, and it’s difficult to build a strong case. What’s a pro team to do? Not to worry—we’ve got you covered with suggestions for a tricky argument to integrate into your pro case. Ready to start picking up those affirmative-side ballots? Read on.


The argument:


Here are the primary components of the argument; you can structure it however you like within your case:


  • The topic says “single-gender classrooms,” not “single-gender schools.”
  • The topic does not specify that the pro must win that all classrooms should be single-gender, only that the pro side must prove that the existence of single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of American public schools.
  • Therefore, the pro does not have to win that single-gender classrooms are superior to co-ed classrooms, or that they should replace co-ed classrooms. The pro only needs to win that the addition of a single-gender option would be net beneficial.
  • So, as the pro, you will defend that schools should offer the option of both single-gender and co-ed classrooms simultaneously.


Why is it strategic?


A couple of reasons. It solves a number of key pro arguments:

  • Children who are LGBTQ, intersex, or in any way gender-nonconforming would be able to avoid placement in single-gender classes, solving exclusion/bullying arguments.
  • Similarly, children whose learning styles don’t “fit” with the model assigned to their gender would not be forced into those classes.
  • Much of the evidence con teams rely on to discredit studies in favor of single-sex classrooms is based on the argument that many studies which found benefits were conducted using unreliable study designs. One major warrant to this claim is that of self-selection bias: parents who choose to enroll their children in experimental single-gender situations are likely to be the same students whose personal characteristics make them likely to do well in that environment. This is a reason why there is no evidence that mandatory single-gender classrooms improve outcomes across-the-board. However, optional single-gender classrooms capture the good results depicted in the unreliable studies, because enrollment continues to be based on choice.
  • Even students who are in single-gender classes would not totally lack exposure to children of other genders, because while the classrooms are single-gender, the entire school is not. Children might interact on the playground, at lunch, etc. This provides defense against con arguments about developing cross-gender social skills and relationships.


This model for a pro case also provides the net benefit of “parent choice,” which a number of studies support as being strongly correlated with positive outcomes for individual children. After all, chances are that parents know their children and their needs better than school administrators. You may want to cut some cards on this and add them to your case.


Of course, if you are going to make this argument, it shouldn’t be the only thing in your pro case. It should be a component, bolstered by the same evidence you would use to support any other pro case on the topic.


An example case structure:


Observation 1- We don’t have to win that single-gender should replace co-ed, only that they should both be options (for all of the reasons discussed above—you will need to explain these in your case!)


Contention 1- Having the option to enroll in single-gender classes is a better option for some students (support this with whatever research you like.)


Contention 2- Parent choice is good/improves students’ performance (for whatever reasons.)


You could optionally include Contention 3- Optional single-gender classes avoid all of the pitfalls of mandatory single-gender classes. If you speak first, you can choose between preemptively making these arguments, or waiting and responding to your opponents’ specific claims. If you speak second, you can tailor this section to directly respond to the key arguments made by the con team.


Con Responses:


Writing your case this way will make you more vulnerable to one con argument: that of increased cost. School districts across the country are operating under already-tight budgets, and the burden of offering additional classes might just be too much. However, you can answer this argument by pointing out that most American primary schools already have multiple classes of the same grade (in order to keep teacher : student ratios manageable), and middle schools and high schools obviously already run many classes concurrently. It is not really a question of adding new classes, then, but rather of restructuring existing ones. That should come at a much lower price point.


Additionally, you can argue that the resolution only asks the pro team to win that having single-gender classes would be better for the American educational system, but winning that it is feasible with current budgets is not a part of that pro burden. How much traction you get with this argument will depend on how slick your debating is, and what kind of judge you have.


Some con teams may choose to dispute your interpretation of the topic, and argue that you must defend that all classes should be single-gender. However, nothing about the resolution dictates this. You can reply that interpreting the topic your way is best,  because it keeps the debate focused on the central question of “do benefits to single-gender classrooms exist?” and makes the division of ground equitable between both sides. If the pro was forced to defend that single-gender classes are always better for everyone, that would be an impossible standard for victory.


We hope this tip will help you overcome some of the side bias everyone is finding so difficult on the March PF topic. If you can win your pro ballots, your path to the elimination rounds should be nice and easy.


Good luck!


This entry was posted in Public-Forum. Bookmark the permalink.