Written by Bruce Deitrick Price
It's well known that the liberals tend to attract the verbally clever and sophistically ingenious. Comparatively speaking, conservatives drag their knuckles when they walk, and can hardly talk at all. How do we know this? Because verbally clever and sophistically ingenious liberals tell us.
Exhibit A for sophistry over substance, and reason overboard, is a famous economist who, for reasons known only to certain newspaper editors, is permitted to discourse on anything.
In a recent attack on Mitt Romney, the noted economist wrote: "So would getting rid of teachers, police officers and firefighters help the American people? Well, some Republicans would prefer to see Americans get less education; remember Rick Santorum's description of colleges as 'indoctrination mills'?”
Please savor this high-level, zero-calorie belly button fluff. In a mere 34 words, there are three huge, loopy, totally dishonest sophistries.
Here is what Romney said: "It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people." Clearly, he wants to cut the size of the federal government in general, and the goal is to "help" the country by saving money.
Romney criticized Obama for saying we need "more firemen, more policemen, more teachers." Note the word "more." Romney is saying we don't need more. Krugman makes any argument for not having “more” into an argument for saying we need cuts. That's the first sophistry.
It's true that the biggest waste, and thus the biggest possible savings, are in education. But not necessarily by firing teachers. No; we could cut the administrative levels, the vast remedial industry, and the overpriced textbooks that do not even work. Not only could you help the country by cutting this waste, you would probably help education!
Krugman sets it up so that a cut in education means firing teachers, which doesn't follow. (People usually like teachers; Krugman exploits that affection.) He assumes -- this is the second sophistry--that any cut in education means that education will be worse, which is not true. On the contrary. If an obese man loses 100 pounds of fat, is he therefore less healthy?
Krugman next says that some Republicans would prefer to see Americans get "less education." In truth, has any Republican ever said this? Less education?? That would be a strange demand and it's unlikely that any politician ever demanded it.
The example Krugman offers is Santorum’s comment that "colleges are indoctrination mills." All colleges? Presumably Santorum complained that some colleges are indoctrination mills, which means they provide a very poor education. Keeping students away from such places would actually increase the level of education in the United States!
Krugman then jumped from that small sleight-of-hand to a universal generalization that some (implying many) Republicans don't like education. This is the third sophistry.
Republicans, it is safe to say, do not like watered-down, ideologically driven education. Liberals love this stuff. That is our problem. The people who receive that sort of Lite Education are likely to suppose that Krugman's sophistries are deep thinking.
Anyway, credit where it's due. Krugman is a genius. If he can weave three huge sophistries into a few sentences, discussing things that everyone is familiar with, can you imagine what this man is doing in the rest of his article? It’s like what they always say about hot dogs. You don’t want to know what’s in there.
In related news, the Supreme Court decided that, even though it's against the law to wear medals you didn't earn, it's okay to brag about what you did to earn them. Common sense would say that these are the same activity. You're presenting to the world something that's not true, specifically a claim to military achievement. Protected by the First Amendment? Only a sophist would try to say one activity is good and the other is bad. The First Amendment protects the expression of opinions, not blatant misstatement of fact, not lies. The logic is positively Krugmanesque. But while the Supreme Court is on a roll, I'd like everyone to know that I'm a Seal with the Congressional Medal of Honor, four Silver Stars, and five Purple Hearts. And you can't take that away from me. Thanks, sophists.
Point is, sophistry is everywhere in our society, gunking up our minds. Parents and teachers should explore the slippery differences between lies, white lies, sophistry, and disingenuousness. Students who can give an example of each are already highly educated.
In related news, every newspaper is calling Fast and Furious “a botched gun-running operation." If that were accurate, there would be no scandal. But many people suspect that Fast and Furious was actually "a gun-dropping operation." There was never an intent to track the guns or to recover them, as in earlier gun-running schemes. No, in 2009 the guns were dropped, distributed, scattered--call it what you want--with the hope that they’d be used to create mayhem and violence. The outrage would allow Obama to clamp down on guns. Fast and Furious, in this view, was merely agitprop, another thing the Left has always been brilliant at. Hillary Clinton was making indignant speeches in 2009 about how 90% of the guns in Mexican crime scenes are from US. It appears the agitprop was already operational at that point. The sophistry was that these guns, used so violently, just happened to get into the wrong hands. Just happened on purpose!
So we see that many people are skilled at sophistry. "Lawyer" and "sophistry" are virtually synonymous. But Krugman is arguably the King of Sophists. And if he says he earned combat ribbons in Afghanistan, that should be good enough for the Supreme Court and everyone else.
Bruce Deitrick Price is an author and education reformer. He founded Improve-Education.org in 2005; his site explains theories and methods.