Rhetorical devices to lead us astray

Here’s a perfect example of the way people can lead a reader into making assumptions that are unfounded. I can speak to this b/c the writer was responding to something I had written:

Look, Pat. In all languages with a written form, people strive to approach
the written norm in certain situations. Depending on their education, they may
succeed in varying degrees.

Formal English is not fascism and is not a repression of human rights. It is
the key to knowledge in all areas of human endeavor and that is why schools
should insist on their students’ mastering it.

I don’t see the point of this entire discussion unless you are pushing for
the elimination of formal English from the schools so that our students can all
be equal – sort of like communism making everyone equally poor. And if the
removal of instruction in formal English from education is your goal, you are
too late. It has already been done -End

Notice the leap from a reasonable statement of his position re formal English to anyone questioning just how formal English is taught being in the radical camp with those who label formal English “fascism and a repression of human rights”. So to those reading his post, it seems to them that I was equating the teaching of formal English in the classroom as fascistic.

That moves the discussion to the writer’s favorite topic: a clear Neoconservative position that the education system has been thoroughly infiltrated from top to bottom by 60s radicals. Once you get your readers to assume that that’s true, then moving them to support the dismantling of our education system by favoring charter schools and vouchers becomes easier.

His appeal at the end is extremely insightful. He knows that most people, esp teachers, have a knee-jerk reaction in accepting that standards have declined since they were in school. He rather graciously advances the supposedly absurd proposition that I might want to remove the teaching of formal English from the curriculum and then the punch!!

This feeds directly into the thinking of people who, in a facile manner, accept the “fact” of the decline and failure of American education, a major Neocon position. Kids learn about Harriet Tubman but not Aristotle? An attack on the West by alien, Communist-inspired forces. Note the sly inclusion of the word “communism” to no apparent purpose just before this “it’s already been done” statement; the purpose was to shade the discussion with the threat of communist plots and influence, thereby discrediting any discussion that questions HOW we teach formal English, which was the point of my original post.

The person who wrote this is positively erudite and a very good person. His political agenda, Neoconservative clearly if you’ve read all his other polticially tinged posts, intrudes heavily on these discussions. His use of rhetorical devices is good. Thus the great progress Neoconservatives have made despite their small numbers. Fortunately, their backing of the Bush debacle has wounded them, but don’t count them out. If they are willing to expend so much energy on a listserv for fl teachers, they will appear anywhere with their message and agenda. They have been very successful in shifting the discussion on public education from nuanced study to outright lies and propaganda. They serve a higher purpose – that of saving Western civilization…… in their minds.

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