Monday, March 12, 2007

The rhetoric of the left

Enter "international baccalaureate minnetonka" into Google, and the first entry displayed is a City Pages article from May 11, 2005, "We Don't Need No Education." Jump to the next page of search results, and you can find the letters to the editor about this article. Together, they provide a compact example of the rhetroic of the left, whether the issue is International Baccalaureate (IB), abortion, global warming, the minimum wage, or smoking bans: a rhetoric filled with logical fallacies.

The left uses these arguments because they are rarely challenged (thanks in part to a friendly mass media), and they work on a public unequipped for critical thinking, which is ironic considering how schools place the importance of "critical thinking skills" above knowledge these days (except for the fact that you can't have the former without the latter: "Take away a people's heritage and they are easily persuaded," said Vladimir Lenin).

Conservatives will never win these arguments until they expose these rhetorical fallacies for what they are, refute them with the facts, and unapologetically stand on conservative principles.

Attack the Messenger

The City Pages article throws its first punch at IB opponents with its clever headline: "We Don't Need No Education," a reference to Pink Floyd's The Wall. The message is, IB opponents favor ignorance. The phrase "Fervor over God and country aside..." is comfortingly condescending (wink wink, nudge nudge) toward two IB opponents quoted in the article, Paul Borowski and Julie Light. To the credit of writer Brett Stursa, the remainder of the article is a surprisingly balanced overview of the opposing sides.

The letters to the editor in response to this article aren't quite so restrained.
I can't relax after reading your article about crazy parents in Minnetonka. I need to hurry up, graduate, and find a law school outside Minnesota, before I find myself handcuffed to a chair in prison, forced to memorize the Old Testament...Our education system is broken, and it's reassuring to know that whenever someone tries to fix it, mobs of crazy parents will start burning books and rioting.

Greg Wright
Straw Man

This logical fallacy is defined as "refuting a caricatured or extreme version of somebody's argument, rather than the actual argument they've made. Often this fallacy involves putting words into somebody's mouth by saying they've made arguments they haven't actually made..."(1)
If you don't want your children to grow up respecting diversity, tolerance, and the sheer fact that America is not the only country on this planet worth its salt, then you deserve to have your children live in the ridiculous world you have created in which being peaceful is a negative trait.

Lenne Klingaman
Seattle, Washington
Argumentum ad numerum

This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by asserting that "everyone" agrees with you. ("Everyone" once thought that the world was flat, did that make them right?) This fallacy is being employed with success in the global warming and intelligent design controversies.
The merits of the program seem to be clear to all but a few vocal critics driven by narrow ideology.

Mitch and Kris Thayer, parents of three kids in Minnetonka schools
Other views on IB

No discussion of International Baccalaureate in the Minnetonka School District would be complete without mentioning Tonka Focus. This grassroots organization is strongly in favor of implementing, preserving, and expanding IB in the district (they also favor the teaching of evolution over intelligent design). You will find token links to opposing arguments, without the standard leftist vitriol, but their viewpoint is clear. Their web site is worth a look, especially since their members may be present at a future IB showdown at a school board near you.

Most days, it seems that the only thing standing between public schools governed by locally-elected school boards and a complete takeover by either the federal government or the United Nations (an increasingly blurry distinction, unfortunately) is EdWatch. Whatever your opinion of this grassroots organization and their unwavering conservative values, their research is impeccable, usually employing published statements and legislation verbatim from their opponents. For the politically incorrect viewpoint on IB, check out EdWatch.

One of the most frequently ignored planks of the Republican Party of Minnesota's standing platform (2006) is: "Republicans believe that parents are responsible for their children’s education and that parents, teachers and local school boards can best make decisions about our children’s education. Therefore, we support...Prohibiting state and federal support of International Baccalaureate (IB) and the adoption of IB by local school districts." Calling Governor Pawlenty!

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