HS Debate ’08

So this year’s High School Policy Debate topic is:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its public health assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa.

And I’ve been thinking about this off and on for the last few weeks. (Yes, this is where I brandish my true-nerd membership card and reveal my previous life as a (mediocre to moderately successful) debater. Note, though, that I continue to follow the ‘bater scene because my father is a coach, not because I can’t let go of my youth. So there.)

Now, it bothers me that most kid’s (or adult’s for that matter) exposure to Africa is limited to the “Save-A-Child!” commercials and news reports of famine, pandemic, or genocide. And that my geographer wife was once asked “So…is Africa a country…or a continent?” And that a fellow engineer couldn’t imagine what work they could find over there.

[internal roar] It’s a continent of nearly one billion people. They are rich and poor, healthy and sick, urban and rural, and yes, they do have buildings big enough to require an engineer. You Morons.

I wish depictions of Africa in the media and in school curriculum reflected the whole place. It might even help us with racial stereotypes in this country.

But, putting that criticism aside, I feel this topic is problematic, because, unless there’s a trade-off, of course public health assistance should increase. How is that arguable? I realize I’ve become a bad debater as I’ve become more set in my beliefs, but you have to have drunk A Lot of the Ayn Rand koolaid to convincingly argue against helping people. Sure, you can argue that the money should be better spent elsewhere, but it’s hard to treat money as zero-sum in a debate round where it requires no political capital to say “We’ll get the money from ending Ag subsidies and auctioning off Yellowstone.”

Anyway, some links that caught my eye regarding African public health:

Forget increasing health assistance. If the US and it’s buddies just stopped shitting on Africa, and made the aid we do provide more meaningful, the situation would improve a lot.

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