Every year I try to teach students to identify and challenge the logical fallacies that have become a regular feature of modern discourse. “Attend college right out of high school or flip burgers the rest of your life” is one they keep hearing. One some kids like to tell is, “School is too hard; I might as well just sell drugs.”
Meanwhile, I have to have up my own defenses.
For more than 25 years I’ve worked in a public education system that is dysfunctional, corrupt and often self-defeating. I do not make these claims frivolously because I understand there are forces — now led by the so-called Secretary of Education — that use such criticism to support their agenda of steering tax dollars toward privatization and to undermine the strength of teachers and our unions and further disadvantage our poorest and most vulnerable children.
Do we really have to accept this false dilemma? Support the failing system completely or replace it entirely? As union rep at the school where I teach, do I choose between standing up for my colleagues or standing up for students?
Nor does anyone need to accept the false dilemmas framed erroneously on the national stage.
If we object to police abuse, can we not also support the police who work hard and risk their lives? Of course we can, but this false dilemma is implied when police misconduct is justified with examples of police bravery and valor. The truth is that misconduct sullies the badge and is an insult to officers who commit those acts of valor.
If we support and respect the police, does it mean we are indifferent to the killing of unarmed people by law enforcement? And can one protest such misconduct by abstaining from the national anthem at a ball game and still support our country or our soldiers? That is such a ridiculous false dilemma it pains me to have to critique it. When anyone acting on behalf of a state or city unjustly harms one of us, it is an affront to our flag and to the soldiers we send overseas to risk their lives. Watch this documentary about a cop who coerced rape and murder confessions out of sailors. Those men lost years of their lives in prison. If a football player or anyone else took a knee during the national anthem in response to that case, would it be disrespecting our military to protest the grave injustice done to those wrongly convicted service men? We not only have a right to protest injustice, we have a duty. Protesting injustice is supporting our country and our troops.
Can only a communist object to the erosion of worker’s rights or support a minimum wage that is a living wage? Hell no. Unregulated labor markets lead to human misery. There is room for argument about the minimum wage but the concept itself is not an acceptance of a centralized planned economy.
Does opposing U.S. aggression throughout the world support terrorists? Actually, the wars of the last decade and a half have been a great public relations tool for radical Islamist groups to recruit more soldiers. And one can support some U.S. military action without supporting it all.
Ditto for opposing the broad powers of the so-called “Patriot Act.” In fact, if terrorists wish to destroy our way of life, they can accomplish much more if we allow them to instill enough fear for us to destroy our own freedoms and privacy. Still, there is probably a middle ground on which we can reduce the risks without enacting a police state.
Is wanting more effective enforcement of immigration law xenophobia? Wanting to reform a system that allows for the exploitation and abuse of some immigrants is hardly xenophonic.
Does support for DACA imply disregard for law and order? Actually, DACA is an attempt to give law and order some humanity.
Is support for the regulating of firearms and ammunition a call for revoking our constitution? The Second Amendment actually calls for “a well-regulated militia... ”
Is support for gun ownership — particularly for self-protection — an acceptance of the horrors of mass shootings and other gun violence? We aren’t going to make guns disappear; gun lovers and gun haters and everyone in-between ought to be able to agree on some regulations that make sense for everyone.
Can a person be educated, intelligent, thoughtful and articulate without being an out-of-touch cultural elitist? I hope so — or, better yet, if everyone were educated, intelligent, thoughtful and articulate then those qualities would not be elitist.
Can anyone oppose or criticize the president or his administration without being an enemy of the state? Rhetorical question. This is the United States of America. If Donald Trump and his people wanted national sycophancy, they should have staged a coup in North Korea instead of moving into the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.