With due credit to Michael Antonucci for inspiring us with his Debate Ballots blog, we will occasionally be posting full written ballots from debates that we judge here on The 3NR. The first ballot is from round five of the Greenhill Round Robin between Kinkaid’s Nikhil Bontha and Layne Kirshon and Westminster’s Ellis Allen and Daniel Taylor. Kinkaid read their science/technology/engineering/mathematics standards affirmative and Westminster went for topicality. Bill Batterman’s full commentary and ballot is available below the fold.
Introduction and Summary
This was an excellent debate—by far the best I have seen so far at the tournament. While topicality can sometimes become an annoying distraction from the substantive issues we ought to be discussing, in this case it provided an interesting back-and-forth about the meaning of the term “social services” and the larger political context in which social service policy is developed. This was, in other words, an interesting and intelligent debate about the topic. Fantastic.
I voted negative because the plan does not increase “social services”—science/technology/engineering/mathematics standards are not an interaction between social workers and their clients. The affirmative’s counter-interpretation expands the scope of the topic in an undesirable way by requiring the addition of distinct public policy controversies to each team’s expected research burden. Defining social services based on their mechanism and not their objective serves an important limiting function because it ensures that the negative can reasonably prepare a generic strategy derived from the core of the topic literature that will apply to the full range of possible cases. While some education and job training programs are undoubtedly topical, the specific mandate of the affirmative plan is not.
The Negative’s Arguments
The negative’s interpretation is that “social services” are defined by the interaction between professional social workers and their clients. Several pieces of evidence are offered to support this interpretation:
The 1NC Van Wormer 2006 evidence cites “Elizabeth Wickenden’s discussion of the definition of personal social services” and explains that “social services … are a mixture of concrete in-kind benefits and services relying on the helpful effects of professional interaction with the client. … [A] benefit is considered to be a [personal—unhighlighted] social service when professional interaction is critical to effective use of the service. … This [definition is somewhat cyclical as it] defines social services as things that social workers do. [The definition presents us with several problems. Some immediate questions are: Is it personal social services if it doesn’t involve social workers? What is the position of the profession in such services? Are personal social services analogous to medical services, which probably would not be recognized as medical services if they were not offered under the auspices of medical professionals? Wickenden seems to imply that] social services need to be ‘directed, supervised or performed by social workers.’”
The 1NC Hahn 2007 evidence quotes several authors and summarizes their definitions of “social services.” “Kahn (1979) defined “social services” in the United States as [‘those services rendered to individuals and families under societal auspices,] excluding the major independent fields of service (that is, excluding health, education, housing, and income maintenance).’ … [In practical terms, those] services would include day care, foster care, institutional facilities, [information and referral services,] counseling, [sheltered workshops,] homemaking services, vocational training and rehabilitation.” It then quotes Smith (2002) who “believed that social services are the activities encompassing an expanding array of programs developed to improve the lives of families and individuals.” The evidence highlights the next sentence about Smith’s definition: “These services include programs designed to address domestic violence, rape, AIDS, poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the needs of disabled persons.”
The 2NC reads a piece of evidence from the House Ways and Means Green Book—a publication that “provides program descriptions and historical data” for federal programs. In this case, the evidence is explaining that Title XX Social Services Block Grant Program funds “cannot be used for [the following: most] medical care except family planning; [rehabilitation] and [certain detoxification services; purchase of land, construction, or major capital improvements; most room and board except emergency short-term services;] educational services generally provided by public schools; [most social services provided in, and by employees of, hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons; cash payments for subsistence; child day care services that do not meet State and local standards; and wages to individuals as a social service except wages of welfare recipients employed in child day care.]”
The 2NC also reads a piece of evidence (Burke 2004) citing the definition of “social service” in the CARE Act of 2003: “[Defines social services as helping people in need, reducing poverty, improving outcomes of low-income children, revitalizing low-income communities, and services empowering low-income people to become self-sufficient.] The term “social services” does not include programs delivering educational assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or the Higher Education Act.” Just for clarification purposes, I assume, the 2NC also read a piece of evidence from the U.S. Department of Education establishing that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes No Child Left Behind—this didn’t become relevant to the debate.
The 2NC read evidence from Elizabeth Wickenden (in a 1976 journal article) that further developed the initial 1NC interpretation that quoted her. This was one of the most important pieces of evidence read by either side because it provided a comparative argument about the overarching way in which social services should be defined—based on the goals or objectives of the policy or based on the mechanism of the policy. Wickenden argues that “[Both the old public assistance titles and the newer Title XX undertake what is now called “definition by objective”: in other words,] social services are to be defined by what they seek to achieve. [Where the old law talked about “strengthening family life,” Title XX lists five objectives: economic self-support, self-sufficiency, protective care for children or adults who need it, prevention of institutionalization through community services, and provision of services to help people in institutions. But] definition by objective alone opens the field wide for functions which fall clearly into other categories. For example, the goal of self-support is directly served by education, job placement, medical or rehabilitative service, job creation (by tax policy or otherwise), farm policy, military policy, and, in fact, virtually all other public policies. While social services can be directed to this common goal, the goal cannot define them. Something more is needed.] Moreover, Title XX clearly opens the way to many differing interpretations of what is to fall within these objectives by prohibiting federal challenge of any expenditure “on the grounds that it is not an expenditure for the provision of a service” within the meaning of the act.3”
Finally, the 2NC read a “prodict” of Professor Alfred Kahn from his New York Times obituary. This evidence, while interesting and very good, is not particularly relevant: the more important author to defend is Professor Wickenden.
Based on this evidentiary support for their interpretation, the negative focused on two major arguments in the 2NR:
The plan, at best, is extra-topical. Even if job training is a social service, the plan is not job training in-and-of-itself but K-12 education as a job training tool. This is a persuasive argument for two reasons:
A. The plan establishes national science/technology/engineering/mathematics standards, not vocational job training. A plan that expanded funding for career training programs at technical schools, on the other hand, might be more consistent with the way the affirmative is characterizing their plan. As it is, though, I do not think the plan is “job training” even if K-12 education prepares students for jobs.
B. The negative used an analogy well to support their point: providing your friend with cash so that they could buy a nice new suit to wear to a job interview might improve their chances of receiving a job offer, but that doesn’t make providing your friend with cash a “job training social service”. The fundamental distinction is between providing skills that are useful in the job market and providing training or placement assistance to job-seekers.
- The negative’s interpretation provides a key conceptual distinction between social services as a mechanism and social services as “definition by objective”. The 2NR’s rhetoric is persuasive: “there is no such thing as a small hole in a dam,” which is to say that once social services come to be defined by their objective there is no holding back the number of programs or policies that will be included under its umbrella.
The Affirmative’s Arguments
The affirmative attacked the negative’s interpretation in two ways: first, by arguing that education is a social service and second, by arguing that the plan is a form of job training and that job training is a social service. They read several pieces of evidence to support their position.
A quotation from Midgley and Livermore’s 2008 book The Handbook of Social Policy provides the basis for their counter-interpretation: “Social services are regarded by many social policy scholars as the primary means by which governments seek to enhance the well-being of their citizens. Throughout the world, governments have adopted policies and enacted statutes that govern the way these social services operate and meet their goals. Conventionally, the term [social services has been used to connote government programs operating in the fields of health, education, housing, income security, and family welfare.] The last two fields are often classified under the heading of ‘social welfare policy.’ Social workers have played a major role in implementing welfare policies and, particularly, in using family and community welfare policies to discharge their professional obligations.”
A piece of evidence from “UN Jobs” (I’m not sure if that’s the United Nations or something else) is offered to define the term “vocational training”: “[[A] general and] internationally accepted definition [states that] vocational training is an activity directed to identifying and developing human capabilities for a productive and satisfying working life. … Vocational training has a pedagogic component, [as well as other types of education,] but with a stronger emphasis on technical [and technological] aspects. Compared to other forms of education, [it shows both a deeper concern about the links between the contents and methods of such training, and the changes that take place within the production and labour world.]”
In order to establish that education policy is an important part of the “social services” literature, Kinkaid reads a piece of evidence from Michael Hill’s book Understanding Social Policy.
The evidence as highlighted is: “Education is often not examine by social policy texts … that it is difficult to find reasons for excluding it tells us about the arbitrary process in categorizing policies as ‘social’ … education is a considerable public expenditure on services … inclusion and exclusion are the consequence of arbitrary decision based on conventional view of the limits to social policy which is clearly open to challenge.”
The full text of the evidence, though, reveals that the author is defining “social policy” and not “social services”: “A chapter on education policy is included in this book (chapter 9). Often, this is not examined by social policy texts. The fact that it is difficult to find reasons either for including it or for excluding it tells us something about the peculiarly arbitrary process involved in categorizing policies as ‘social.’ Clearly, the field of education is one in which there is a considerable amount of public expenditure on services that contribute to public welfare. So, is the hallmark of social policy expenditure its contribution to public welfare, and what does this really mean? If education policy is included, why not also include leisure policy or environmental policy? In fact, the inclusion of education, and the exclusion of leisure and the environment, are the consequence of a comparatively arbitrary decision based on a conventional view of the limits to social policy which is clearly open to challenge; see Cahill (1994, 2002) and Huby (1998) for such a challenge.”
I think this lends substantial credibility to the negative’s contention that an outcome-oriented definition of “social services” results in a topic that is enormously broad—under this kind of interpretation, the affirmative need only enact a social policy affecting persons living in poverty in order to be topical.
The best piece of evidence offered by the affirmative quotes a 1972 article written by Susan Baillie (a professor at the UCLA medical college) establishing the importance of education policy in the context of social services.
The evidence as read/highlighted is as follows: “Education could play a vital role in social service … education services are an integral element of social services … vocational education, job training and so forth … integration of services with education offers potential for improving services.”
The full text of the evidence provides a bit more context: “Finally, it would appear that education could play a vital and central role in an integrated social service program. First, there are educational facilities in virtually every community: they are reasonably accessible. Second, these facilities are primarily utilized during the daytime hours of nine—to—three. And most of these school buildings currently are used only sparingly during other hours. Third, educational services are an integral element of social services. That is, they address a very important felt need of a large number of individuals. Aside from the core educational program of kindergarten through twelfth grade, there are a number of other educational needs which are intimately related to other social services: day care——early childhood education centers, vocational education, prenatal and nutritional education, job training and re—training, and so forth. The integration of social services with education offers an obvious potential for improving the quality and nature of the services which are provided. At the same time, it also appears to present some possibilities for reducing costs. The problem with all of this, of course, is that the claims made on behalf of social service integration are largely a priori in nature. That is, they make a considerable amount of rational sense, but leave unanswered the question: Will it work? The notions in our heads of how things “ought to” work so often collide with what actually happens.”
As was the case with the Hill evidence, the Baillie evidence is much less persuasive when its full context is revealed. In particular, the line “The integration of social services with education offers an obvious potential for improving the quality and nature of the services which are provided” lends credibility to a reading of this evidence as a defense of integrating social services with education policy rather than as a definition of social services that is inclusive of education policy.
Kinkaid reads a piece of evidence from an Urban Institute Report (Mikelson 2004) describing the scope of current federal job training expenditures. The evidence as highlighted asserts that “DOE spent $3.2 billion on vocational training used in secondary schools,” but the full text of the evidence reveals a bit different story: “Highlights about Federal Job Training Expenditures through Non-DOL Departments In addition to the spending through DOL, about $2.0 to $3.5 billion was spent in 2002 on training through programs in six other federal departments, nearly half of which was through Pell Grants for persons enrolled in two-year post-secondary programs in community colleges and proprietary schools. (The analysis of Pell Grant spending excludes degree programs at four-year colleges on the assumption that most job training occurs through two-year and proprietary schools.) • Department of Education (DOE). In 2002, DOE spent between $1.9 and $3.2 billion on occupational or vocational training. This represents about 12 to 20 percent of the total spending of $16.3 billion in DOE programs that fund sometraining. More than half of DOE’s training expenditures were through Pell Grants, and another 15 to 20 percent were through Carl Perkins Vocational and Technical or Tech Prep grants (about two-thirds of which is used in secondary schools).”
In the end, this doesn’t really matter: my reading of this evidence is simply that the Department of Education funds job training programs in secondary schools. This is obviously true. The question that matters in this debate is not whether vocational training programs can occur in secondary schools but whether national STEM standards constitute a job training program. This evidence is unhelpful in resolving that dispute.
The evidence that Kinkaid reads that does help resolve the dispute over whether or not the plan constitutes a job training program is taken from the text of Title XX (as taken from the Ohio Laws and Rules). Two terms are defined: “Education and training services” and “Employment services”:
“(P) “Education and training services” means:
(1) Services provided to improve knowledge of daily living skills and to enhance cultural opportunities.
(2) Services which may include instruction or training in, but are not limited to, such issues as consumer education, health education, community protection and safety education, literacy education, English as a second language, and general educational development (GED).
(3) Component services or activities which may include screening; assessment and testing; individual or group instruction; tutoring; provision of books, supplies, and instructional material; counseling; transportation; and referral to community resources.
(Q) “Employment services” means:
(1) Services or activities provided to assist individuals in securing employment or acquiring or learning skills that promote opportunities for employment.
(2) Component services or activities which may include employment screening, assessment, or testing; structured job skills and job seeking skills; specialized therapy (occupational, speech, physical); special training and tutoring, including literacy training and pre-vocational training; provision of books, supplies, and instructional material; counseling; transportation; and referral to community resources.”
I do not think this evidence supports Kinkaid’s claim that the plan is “job training”. If the plan does fit this definition of “education and training services” or “employment services,” then the negative’s contention that the affirmative’s interpretation makes the topic impossibly large has even more credibility. In fact, the rather lengthy list of programs contained in the Title XX definition that Kinkaid provides seems to support Professor Wickenden’s argument about politicization: when “social services” are defined by their objective, every pet project that a politician wants to support can be interpreted as a “social service” so that it may qualify for federal funds. Once again, the explanation provided by the negative seems to take into account the evidence and arguments of the affirmative much more than the affirmative’s explanation takes into account the evidence and arguments of the negative.
Finally, the affirmative read a piece of evidence from Lidia Pringle (a United Press International staff writer, it would appear) that contends that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides social services. “Educators’ venture into such a traditionally nonacademic arena traces back to 1965, when the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act seeded the social-services side of schooling. Federal funding opened the campus gates to psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers and the classroom doors to psychiatric programs and testing.”
Again, this evidence seems to suggest not that educational standards (the mechanism of the plan) are a social service but rather that social services have been provided through the education system.
Things I Thought About While Resolving The Debate:
Is there a difference between “personal social services” and “social services”? If there is, the affirmative should certainly point that out. I think this is an important issue that teams should be prepared to discuss in “T-Social Services” debates.
The 2NC and the 2NR did a very effective job of using common-sense, simple analogies to bolster the credibility of the distinctions they were making between different arguments. Too often debaters use contrived, silly analogies that oversimplify things or exaggerate/hyperbolize the issues being discussed. Westminster should be commended for not resorting to those tactics in this debate.
The question of whether “social services” should be defined based on the mechanism used or the intended outcome seems like a very important one. At least for me, this is a much more interesting and meaningful question than “does X interpretation of social services preserve neg ground / aff flexibility” — those arguments are always self-serving and criminally underdeveloped.
The meta-framework for the evaluation of topicality was addressed only minimally during the course of this debate. What is the threshold that must be met in order to vote negative on topicality? If the negative’s interpretation is only slightly better than the affirmative’s, who should win the debate? What values underly the negative’s implicit claim that “topicality is a voting issue”? How are those values implicated by this specific topicality argument? Even when it isn’t a central part of the debate, it is important not to forget the basic necessity of establishing why (and under what circumstances) topicality is a voting issue.
One Final Note:
I decided this debate over a very long period of time. After deliberating for about forty-five minutes immediately after the debate, I judged a Lincoln-Douglas round before returning to this debate. After deliberating for a few more minutes, I judged another LD round before ultimately returning once again to this debate and resolving it.
I am not sure what effect (if any) this had on my ultimate conclusion but my gut feeling is that it provided a little bit better perspective than is normally available given the time constraints of a decision at a power-matched tournament. This might be a product of my decision-making process: unlike some judges, I actively consider my decision as the debate is unfolding and then come to a contingent decision immediately after the debate has ended. In about 90% of the rounds I judge, this contingent decision is confirmed through the subsequent process of deliberation. In the other 10%, I ultimately decide that my initial decision was incorrect—usually based upon unexpected differences in evidence quality or because of an argument interaction that I had not initially grasped.
In this debate, my contingent decision was to vote negative. My extensive post-round deliberation did not alter that assessment even after it was subjected to more-rigorous-than-usual scrutiny. I hope that this effort is appreciated by the debaters; I certainly appreciated the passion and intelligence they demonstrated and thoroughly enjoyed this debate/decision.