"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Monday, August 8, 2011

The Syllogistic Dishonesty of Arne Duncan

If we are doomed to common core standards, I hope the communication arts standards include learning about syllogisms so students can begin to dissect political arguments and babble, and determine what is truth and what is spin.

What is a syllogism?


Logic . an argument the conclusion of which is supported by two premises, of which one (major premise) contains the term (major term) that is the predicate of the conclusion, and the other (minor premise) contains the term (minor term) that is the subject of the conclusion; common to both premises is a term (middle term) that is excluded from the conclusion. A typical form is “All A is C; all B is A; therefore all B is C.”
deductive reasoning.
an extremely subtle, sophisticated, or deceptive argument.

We previously wrote about how this current "reform" of education (touted by Arne Duncan and many Republicans) takes away any semblance of local control. Now let's focus on the syllogistic "deceptive argument" Duncan is furthering.

Politico reports Duncan has used his alleged authority (this has been called into dispute) to issue waivers for certain No Child Left Behind mandates instead of legislating through a waiver-granting process. NCLB was to be reauthorized by September and Duncan believed Congress was dragging its feet and the reauthorization would not be ready. To the reader not familiar with the political misgivings about NCLB's impact on education, it would appear as if Duncan is truly riding in on a stallion, giving the school districts relief from the onerous mandates. Here is the press release from the US Department of Education which states in part:

With the new school year fast approaching and still no bill to reform the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, the Obama administration will provide a process for states to seek relief from key provisions of the law, provided that they are willing to embrace education reform.

Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan jointly announced the President's directive in the White House briefing room on Monday, August 8. Barnes explained that the administration's proposal to fix NCLB has been with Congress for 16 months, been the topic of numerous meetings and hearings, and been subjected to partisan politics in the House. Last March – a full year after submitting his proposal – the President called for a bill before the start of the school year.

And to add to this wonderful executive order, the press release ends with this:

Duncan said that NCLB is "forcing districts into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don’t work. The President understands this and he has directed us to move ahead in providing relief -- but only for states and districts that are prepared to address our educational challenges."

"There is no magic bullet for fixing education and the best ideas will always come from the local level -- from the hardworking men and women in our schools doing the hard work every day to educate our children," Duncan said. He added, "We're still hopeful that Congress can continue its work this fall. In the meantime, states and districts have an opportunity to move forward."

Duncan is using the syllogistic argument in a deceptive manner. Here is Duncan's argument as laid out in this press release:

  • Major premise: One-size-fits all solutions don't work and the best solutions are provided at the local level
  • Minor premise: Federal relief and funding will be provided to states prepared for those states that address our educational challenges
  • Conclusion: One-size-fits all solutions don't work and federal assistance will be provided to those states that address challenges provided by local government

Wow! That is a panacea to educational challenges! Too bad it's too good to be true. What is Duncan's idea of providing federal relief and funding? From Politico 44:

Duncan announced in June that if Congress fails to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by Obama’s deadline of the start of the next school year, he intends to develop a program that allows states to apply for regulatory relief if they pursue certain reforms. Duncan didn’t specify which requirements states would be asked to meet, nor did he specify when the program might be put in place. (emphasis added)

Could it be that this requirements might just be the Chicago-type of reform found in Race to the Top? Could these requirements be akin to why many states signed onto Common Core standards even before they were written...because Duncan threatened to withhold Title I money if they didn't agree to implement them? Where is the mention of local control in the Politico 44 piece?

There isn't any mention of local control because there is no interest in local voices shaping educational policy. The stakeholders mentioned time after time in federal documents with Race to the Top and common core standards don't include parents. Or taxpayers. And neither does this waiver. He talks about local control but he has no intention of giving federal money without more federal mandates...and that is the subject of tomorrow's blog.


  1. Neither Obama nor Duncan want local control of education.
    Federal relief and funding will be provided to states prepared for those states that address our educational challenges.
    Neither Obama nor Duncan want local control of education.

  2. Uneducated people are useless idiots and a drain on society.

    Obama, Duncan and globalists want to educate people so they can have successful useful lives.

    Obama, Duncam and the globalists want useful educated idiots to help a global society.


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