“Begging the Question” means “using your conclusion as evidence of your conclusion”.
I’m sure classical logic doesn’t recognize the concept of “begging the answer” – using the status quo as a defense of the status quo.
But this Dana Goldstein piece in Salon against Michele Bachmann and her fellow education reformers might just change all that.
Michele Bachmann’s…growing popularity among the Republican base also signals…a sea change in the party’s education agenda. It’s safe to say that the political era of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind is now officially over, even as the law’s testing mandates continue to reverberate in classrooms across the country.
The sooner, the better.
As recently as a decade ago, Republicans like George W. Bush, John McCain, and John Boehner embraced bipartisan, standards-and-accountability education reform as a pro-business venture, a way to make American workers and firms more competitive in the global marketplace. Now we are seeing the GOP acquiesce to the anti-government, Christian-right view of education epitomized by Bachmann, in which public schools are regarded not as engines for economic growth or academic achievement, but as potential moral corrupters of the nation’s youth.
As we’ll see below, I think Goldstein is lumping too many eggs into the “Christian Conservative!” basket.
As our public schools continue to flounder, more and more of us have had experiences that have exposed to them that public schools just aren’t like they were when we parents were kids. Maybe it was a series of teachers like this one; maybe it was a long trail of eye-opening episodes with the celebration of hide-bound bureaucracy, or relentless kow-towing to political correctness that our school systems have become at the expense of actual education.
It’s why over an eighth of Saint Paul parents, and even more than that in Minneapolis, have deserted the public schools, for suburban schools (via Minnesota’s open enrollment law), charter schools and parochial and private schools. The vast majority of these people are black, hispanic and Asian.
I don’t suspect they were all motivated by Michele Bachmann.
(Aside: Goldstein refers to MNCD2 Congressman John Kline as “the moderate [! – Ed.] chairman of the House education and workforce committee“. Factor that into your analysis accordingly)
Goldstein recounts Bachmann’s political origin story – homeschooling her kids, helping found a charter school, running for the Stillwater School Board and thence to the State Senate…:
As her political career advanced, the overarching theme of Bachmann’s education activism was that government attempts to improve schools threatened the prerogatives of the Christian family and represented a dangerous move toward a socialized, planned economy. In 2001, she charged that the 1994 federal School to Work Opportunities Act, which provided funding for low-income teenagers to do on-the-job apprenticeships with local companies, would turn students into “human resources for a centrally planned economy.” As a state senator in 2002, Bachmann produced a bizarre film called Guinea Pigs II, which compared Minnesota’s Profile of Learning curriculum standards—instituted in 1998 by Republican Gov. Arne Carlson—to Nazism and communism. As Tim Murphy of Mother Jones wrote of Bachmann last week, “She was Tea Party before the Tea party was cool. In 2002, with a Republican president in the White House and the Tea Party a full seven years away, she cited the 9th and 10th amendments while railing against No Child Left Behind as an unconstitutional abuse of power.”
Leave aside the bizarre fact that Goldstein thinks John Kline is a moderate, but that Bachmann should have cozied up to Arne Carlson because he was a “Republican”; she was right. Oh, the rhetoric was a
little lot overheated – but there is no rational case to be made that the US Department of Education does, or has ever, contributed positively to education.
Bachmann wasn’t the only Christian conservative local politician making these anti-education reform arguments in the 1990s. Rather, from the beginning of her activist career, she was part of a national “parental rights” movement organized by groups such as Focus on the Family and the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund. Like Bachmann, Sarah Palin was a foot soldier in this movement. According to an account local political activist Phillip Munger gave Salon, as mayor of Wasilla, Palin promoted a group of Christian right school board candidates.
So Goldstein’s goal seems to be clear; tie the “education reform” movement to “crazy”, “scary” conservative women.
But look at the people who are leaving the school systems. In the inner cities, the refugees are largely Black, Hispanic and Asian – not, the last I checked, Bachmann or Palin’s key constituents.
Goldstein is trying to make her premise fit the facts she’s chosen to focus on – that there is a big, scary, crazy Christianist movement out there, working to derail public education – while white conservatives are just the tip of the iceberg of dissatisfaction, even revulsion, with the current school system.
And when the two finally connect?
Well, I suspect that’s what Goldstein is trying to prevent.