Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spot that Fallacy!

Mike Bloomberg, in his never-ending quest to educate the public, has decided to give NYC a lesson in false logic. In a stunning demonstration in the NY Times, the mayor presents us with these two gems of muddled thinking:

False Choice: “If you’re going to spend an extra dollar, personally, I would always rather spend it on the people that deliver the service,” Mr. Bloomberg said when asked about the report on Thursday, calling class size “an interesting number.”

Here, the mayor presents the situation as an either/or, when it is nothing of the sort. Most Long Island districts, as well as many districts upstate and in Connecticut, have shown that you can have both low class size and pay teachers well. What makes Mr. Bloomberg's utterance a particularly good example is that he has utterly failed to do either one. NYC teachers make less money and have the largest class sizes in the state. And, of course, the "If you're going to spend an extra dollar" dichotomy doesn't work here because the mayor has no intention of spending an extra dollar on class size or teachers, despite a mandate and an inflow of money from the CFE suit. Mikey follows up with another false choice gem: "“If you have to have smaller class size or better teachers, go with the better teachers every time.”

The Post Hoc Fallacy: In New York City, an Education Department comparison over the last two years between school report-card grades and average class size has found little correlation; in many cases, schools with better grades have bigger classes.

In reading this, you would think that larger class sizes has had a positive effect on school report card grades. This utterly ignores two critical points: The city grades itself, so the grades are inherently meaningless, and people who want their kids to have a good education tend to move to areas where the schools are better when that is an option for them. Many of the most overcrowded schools in NYC, for example, are in affluent areas of the city and Queens.

That's Mayor Mike's lesson in false logic today, kiddies. Tune in tomorrow, when Mikey will show us the fallacy of false cause by claiming that because the NYC test scores have gone up, mayoral control of schools has been a success.

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