Clarifying Ad Hominem

Here’s a brilliant piece clarifying the oft misused term “ad hominem.” The key thing here is that an “ad hominem” attack is one in which someone tries to refute an argument. Merely insulting someone does not rise to the level of ad hominem.

One of the most widely misused terms on the Net is “ad hominem”. It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don’t need it when they’ve got ad hominem on their side. It’s the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.

In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.

Therefore, if you can’t demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can’t demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem. If your opponent’s sarcasm is not an attempt to counter your argument, but merely an attempt to insult you (or amuse the bystanders), then it is not part of an ad hominem argument

How Billionaires Control The School Systems

Here’s an interesting article from a leftist magazine, Dissent, on how a few billionaires and their foundations are controlling—likely to its detriment—the direction our public schools are taking.

THE cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

As someone in the trenches of education, I am absolutely convinced that the nations schools are going backward—not forward—with every new reform. We’ve spent two decades trying all of these new-fangled education ideas dreamed up by ambitious Ph.D.s and power accumulating state and federal bureaucrats and the end result, if you believe these same Ph.D.s and Bureaucrats is that things are getting worse. So much worse, in fact, that we need even more change than before.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Lets go back to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic with traditional teaching methods. That’s the education that the Ph.D.s and bureaucrats received that made them so smart in the first place.

Food Photography Links

Just a placeholder for a couple of food photography links. I’m thinking about trying this out in the winter off-months.

Lack of Skilled Workers Threatens Recovery

Welcome Instapundit fans. While I normally write about golf, as you can see on the main pages, the GolfBlogger 19th Hole is my outlet for other writing. Before becoming a public school teacher, I worked for The Heritage Foundation, so my leanings are definitely conservative … 

The post you want to see is below:


From a recent Yahoo Finance article:

Workers with specialized skills like electricians, carpenters and welders are in critically short supply in many large economies, a shortfall that marks another obstacle to the global economic recovery, a research paper by Manpower Inc (NYSE:MAN – News) concludes.

“It becomes a real choke-point in future economic growth,” Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said. “We believe strongly this is really an issue in the labor market.”

As a public school teacher, I’ve been saying for some time that the entire “No Child Left Behind – Every Kid Has To Go To College” mentality would have just this sort of negative, and unintended consequence. Public High school used to have big shop departments—woodshop, auto repair, plumbing, welding, etc. Now, the government’s emphasis on high-stakes academic tests in measuring school quality has resulted in reduction or elimination of non-academic classes. Students are being told that college is their only hope.

It all makes sense from the school’s point of view. Schools need students to buy into the college mentality so they will concentrate on the sort of knowledge and skills that will help them score well on standardized academic tests (in Michigan, that’s the ACT for high school students). Students scores on standardized tests determine whether a school is deemed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or is failing. Failing schools suffer a number of sanctions, none of which are pleasant for administrators or teachers.

College prep classes help schools meet AYP and avoid sanctions. Shop classes do not. So the shop classes have to go.

You really can’t blame the schools, though. The Federal Government has set the rules and public schools are simply playing the game. This is just another example of the failure of top down government.

Rather than having the federal government dictate children’s futures, parents and students should have a wide variety of educational avenues available. The truth is that not every kid is meant to go to college, and not every kid should. The trades are honorable, worthwhile, and profitable. Trades require intelligence, hard work and professionalism. As a society, we need tradesmen.

And frankly, tradesmen make more than most college-educated public school teachers. smile