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  • Louiza Easley

Motion Breakdown: Inflating Academic Self-Perception

This motion breakdown is to provide relevant arguments in this motion. This does not mean that running these arguments in this debate will guarantee a win, but it does increase your chances of winning and adapting in the debate round dynamics. 

This House believes that education systems should over-inflate children’s academic self-perception (e.g., providing overwhelmingly positive feedback, avoiding failing grades, etc.). 

This motion came from the first preliminary round of the Worlds University Debating Championship. The motion statistics for this British Parliamentary format are as follows: 1st for OG: 10.8%, 1st for OO: 29.7%,  1st for CG: 14.9%, 1st for CO: 44.6%. Motion statistics are a reflection of the win rate of houses in this particular motion for the entire tournament pool. 

The Case For Proposition

The Set-Up

In debate types that burden proposition to defend excess, the most important thing you must do is secure three important definitions. 

  • The first is to illustrate what inflation looks like. In this portion, you may say that the overinflation of academic self-perception will be in languages that are still believable for students.

 Example: You will unlikely say to a student that they are perfect and will be the next Nobel laureate, but you may say they are intelligent in math. 

 Importance: This is strategically important because it prevents the opposition from arguing that overinflation is exaggerated and unrealistic.


  • The second thing to do is to suggest that over-inflation does not mean that we remove other parts of criticism. In this portion, you can say that criticism can exist outside of the education system. 

Example: You can derive criticism from your peers and other members of your community. 

Importance: This prevents the opposition from claiming that the benefit of criticism can only be found exclusively on their side. This also burdens opposition to differentiate the quality of criticism that you derive from education and criticism that you derive from the community. If they are unable to do this, the opposition will have no strategic advantage. 

  • The last thing to do to complete the setup is to characterize strategically what a student's upbringing looks like. In this portion, you may suggest that a student's upbringing is largely affected by his childhood. During childhood, a lot of parents usually over-inflate the compliments that their child receives for various reasons. This means that students are inherently more receptive to compliments than criticism. 

Example: Even when a child paints a picture badly, a parent will not say that this painting is ugly. Instead, they will still compliment the child for painting.

Importance: This will be the largest underlying premise of your claims and argumentation. This premise is important because it answers the question as to why overinflation of compliments is necessary but also that it will be perceived by the child better. This characterization also adds a burden for opposition to prove that criticism is preferred by the students more, but secondly, criticisms are perceived well by students. 

Argument 1: Criticisms harm students 

This argument relies on the proving of the setup. This argument will not be effective and strong if the setup is unproven.

  • This argument relies on the premise that students accustomed to compliments outside of schooling do not perceive criticism well. In this portion, the speaker must highlight how students engage with criticism.

Example: Speakers may suggest that students often see criticism as an attack on their ability and their confidence; thus, it is not perceived well. You may also add that students do not understand how to deal with criticism, especially when it comes from a person of authority they fear and respect. 

Importance: This argument places a burden on the opposition to respond about how criticisms harm students and their learning. Multiple impacts can be derived from this argument, such as lowering of self-esteem, pressure to become better, and fear of receiving more criticism in the future. All of these harm the learning process and mental health status of the students. 

Argument 2: Overinflation improves the learning process

  • This argument relies on the premise that education is challenging, and overinflation makes the perception of a child towards education better. To elaborate on this point, it is important to show that education is often overbearing. 

Example: The education system requires a student to learn multiple subjects in one day while giving them multiple requirements to take home. This takes away precious time for them to have fun, relax, and rest. Additionally, it's also important to note that a student’s intelligence is subjective, and often, a lot of kids do not do well in the standardized learning that education gives them. 

Importance: This argument is important because it shows that children usually have inherent characteristics that make it harder for them to do well in school. Which means that they are more likely to make mistakes. This burdens opposition to show that mistakes are going to be fixed by overinflation. 

  • The second part of this argument is to show that overinflation of academic performance allows children to appreciate the education they receive from school more. In this portion of the argument, it is important to highlight that there are alternatives to the education system and that if parents do not see their children performing well in school, they are likely to pull them out. 

  • This second portion will only be strong if Argument 1 is proven sufficiently. 

Example: Parents can also evaluate the performance of their children in school, using report cards, parent-teacher conferences, and even talking to their child. Since we prove that criticism negatively affects the student’s learning, the impacts of lowered confidence and self-esteem are likely to be seen by parents as well. In most instances, they are likely to pull the child out of school and bring them to alternative schooling like homeschooling.

Importance: This argument is important as it shows that the education system will have fewer students and less influence on learning once the negative effects of criticism are seen by parents. This argument is important because it burdens the Opposition to respond. 


Argument 3: Teachers practice criticism poorly

  • The premise of this argument is to suggest that teachers even after undergoing training from the educational department, often have inherent biases that fuel harmful criticisms. This is especially true for old and tenured teachers with generational biases who can escape accountability due to tenured positions. 

Example: A teacher coming from a strict household and growing up in a strict and competitive environment will expect the same things from their students. When students do not meet these expectations, the teacher will likely criticize them like how she was criticized when she grew up. They often justify this by saying things like, “Back in my days, mistakes like these are not tolerated.”

Importance: This argument burdens opposition to prove why teachers use criticisms in a manner that promotes learning. This argument is good because it doesn’t rely on the generic argument that teachers are abusive. After all, they are bad, despite it showing that even if teachers may be good and trained, they have inherent characteristics that bring harm. 

The Case for Opposition 

The Set Up 

  • In this debate, the opposition has to show how criticisms are given in the status quo. Criticism is proportional to the performance and age of a student

Example: Here, you have to point out that teachers have always been trained to gauge the aptitude and sensitivities of their students. What this means is that they can moderate their criticism to an appropriate level that does not hurt the child. 

Importance: This directly engages with the set up of Affirmative and shows that the giving out of criticism is done in a healthy way that does not harm the child. This is important because it undercuts a lot of the underlying arguments that the Affirmative brings. 

  • The second thing to point out here is how teachers, even if they may be bad, often are motivated to make sure that they retain their jobs by not having parents complaining or students dropping out

Example: Teachers are subject to different accountability measures such as parent-teacher meetings, student complaints, and even performance evaluations. What this means is that when a teacher gives out demoralizing criticisms that hurt the student’s performance in school, teachers also suffer from this because it is a direct reflection of their performance as workers. 

Importance: This engages with the third argument of Affirmative about teachers. In this point, speakers can show that teachers have financial incentives to do well in their jobs, which means that they are unlikely to give out harmful criticisms. This is important because not only does this establish an inherent motivation that clashes with the Affirmative, but it also responds to their claims. 

Argument: Criticism is Key to Learning

  • The premise of this argument is that students only become receptive to learning once they understand that they can also make mistakes. Here, the opposition will agree with the characterization of the Proposition that students are always exposed to compliments.

This means that students often have no motivation to learn and get better in school because of their self-belief that they are already smart and good. 

Example: A student that has been coddled by their parents and complimented for everything that they do are likely to build a self-belief and ego that they are the best. This means that they believe that they are unable to make any mistakes and that their choices are always the best. 

Importance: This argument is good because it can stem from multiple impacts, such as growing ignorant of their mistakes and even denying that they can make mistakes. This is important because this burdens Affirmative to engage with the problem of coddling and overinflation. 

Argument 2: Criticism is a powerful learning instrument

  • This argument relies on the setup of Opposition. If the setup is not done correctly, this argument is easily defeated by the Affirmative. This argument relies on the premise that criticism becomes valuable because it opens the understanding of a student that there are things that they can still improve on and that mistakes are steps to learning. 

Example: When you always get a perfect score in your exams, you’re likely to become more complacent in the next exams to follow. However, if you make some mistakes, you are more motivated to study harder. 

Importance: This argument shows that criticism allows students to become accepting of their mistakes, which makes them improve in their studies.

Argument 3: Criticism prepares for adulthood 

  • The premise of this argument shows that adulthood is challenging, and students who graduate are bound to make mistakes. This premise can be proven in many ways

Example: Adulthood does not have a roadmap; often, individuals compete with each other for opportunities, and the standards of the workplace that you enter after graduating are different. All of this means that students are bound to make mistakes in the first years as they enter adulthood and the workplace. However, since the education system already gave them the proper attitude  

Importance: This is important because it establishes that education also has a long-term effect on students as they graduate. This also establishes that mistakes will permanently exist in people’s lives; therefore, having the right attitude to face your mistakes becomes important as well. 

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