Thoughts on ‘motte and bailey’ tactics

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Many on the radical left who claim to encourage discussions undermine them with rhetorical ploys that schools seldom teach students to defend against. That matters more now that activists seem bent on misusing curricula to indoctrinate.

Middle Age universities taught students to recognize the “motte and bailey fallacy”—a bait and switch tactic popular with those who use today’s sound-bite media to push hot-button topics.

In 10th century Europe a popular castle plan featured an easily defensible stone “keep” called a “motte” surrounded by a much larger courtyard or “bailey.” In rhetoric, the “motte” is an easily defended common sense statement while a “bailey” is a controversial statement much harder to defend. The arguer conflates the two, but when challenged argues that only the easier to defend part was claimed.

One who uses “motte and bailey” arguments ignores his or her own weak position, disrespects your ability to identify the fallacy, or acts maliciously.

A “strawman fallacy” often follows where they exaggerate or incorrectly paraphrase the challenge to them in a way that also exposes their ignorance, disrespect, or malice.

While other states moved to ban Critical Race Theory, we urged exposing CRT to be much more than what the New York Times calls “classroom discussion of race, racism.” Chief advocate Ibram Kendi pushes his children’s book. Such books for schools and pre-schoolers inject postmodern word revision to indoctrinate minds too young to defend against them.

In his article “How to Be an Antiracist” Kendi practices: 1) illogic, 2) redefinition of words through hermeneutic sleight of hand, and 3) manipulating the scope of action.

He writes “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist.” That claims discrimination isn’t discrimination. Then it substitutes “equity” for “equality” as if the identical outcomes are necessary rather than comparable opportunities to achieve.

Kendi implies an “overrepresented racial group” is inappropriate. That suggests that some arbitrary classification of humanity is scientifically, culturally, or politically significant. Then, based on different outcomes, he presumes bias had to have happened.

So, based on one group’s sheer size and simply because he asserts it, he calls for unspecified, undefined, and indefinable equity, a thumb on the scales of justice until equity is reached—as if, in dynamic societies, equity ever could be reached. Kendi believes discriminatory anti-discrimination must continue to be required—always.

Kendi’s purposeful misunderstandings of the dynamics of culture and society conveniently fit his desire to centrally manage it forever, ignoring that larger government often creates more problems than it solves.

In the end, Kendi doesn’t care for the downtrodden. He cares for an arbitrary slice of it that he chooses to define by race. How dare he be so cynical?

CRT ideas have wormed their way into education advocacy groups, foundations, colleges, teaching networks, textbooks, and approved curricula. Its politicized ideas are unworkable, but advocates don’t care so long as they get a special seat at the table.

Ban them? That won’t work. Parents need to know what is being taught in schools. Sunshine will expose junk scholarship, and whether education belongs to political activists, government bureaucracies, or to our children as individuals.

—S.B.Waters

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