Building with straw

Wikipedia has a succinct definition of “straw man” —

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “set up a straw man,” one describes a position that superficially resembles an opponent’s actual view, yet is easier to refute. Then, one attributes that position to the opponent. For example, someone might deliberately overstate the opponent’s position. While a straw man argument may work as a rhetorical technique—and succeed in persuading people—it carries little or no real evidential weight, since the opponent’s actual argument has not been refuted.

In my view, this describes to a “T” the recent attacks on Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond by Kathleen Madigan of the Pioneer Institute and her allies, over many months now, to the detriment of any united action among education reform-minded Democrats who need to find more common ground around their shared commitment to assure quality schools for high-needs students. Darling-Hammond, who led President Obama’s transition team for education prior to the Inauguration, has (probably wisely) decided to withdraw from the fray and return to her work at Stanford.

In a effort not to add to the heap of straw bales already crowding the reform field , I’ll leave it to readers to peruse the following selection of posts and decide for themselves whether Darling-Hammond has been used to divide Democrats and isolate those who disagree with the political positions represented by Madigan and others. A useful guiding question: Whose best interests are in whose hearts?

Kathleen Madigan: A Repackaged Education Proposal (Boston Globe Op-ed, 2/14)
L. Darling-Hammond: Knowledge, Skills Are Not Mutually Exclusive Goals (Boston Globe letter, 2/20)
A Convenient Bogeyman (Public School Insights, 2/20)
Linda Darling-Hammond Gives Props to Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Blog, 2/20)
Diane Ravitch: In Education, The New Administration Is As Ruinous As The Old (Arena/Politico, 2/21)
The Future of Education Policy, If Darling-Hammond Has Her Way (Gotham Schools, 1/22)
Tom Toch: Darling-Hammond Unbound (The Quick and the Ed, 12/4)

— john norton

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