Model essay time!
I detest 'balanced' arguments the way they are commonly taught. What usually results is something of a bipolar nature with little basis for resolution. Instead of arguments, what the kids generally produce are almost verbatim reports of 'he said' vs 'somebody else said', which is a neutral approach, but two arguments for the price of one is NOT an argument -- particularly if they are self-negating and hence, inconclusive.
Instead, I prefer turning the essay question back on myself. I don't care what the eternally conflicting straw-men have to say about the issue. What's important is what I think of the unvarnished truth of the matter. While I rail at the world, I am still able to 'balance' my argument by identifying the imperfections that make up the world and our experience of it, rather than shoehorning in balance via the polar antithesis of the question.
Anyway, here's what I think of the 'pursuit of excellence' and whether is is ALWAYS beneficial to [my] country: absolutely, unequivocally yes!
Coincidentally, I just read this article about the intentional propagation of ignorance by the BBC, making me wonder if we were actively teaching kids to stay ignorant by teaching them to argue through polar opposites.