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Fallacies from Miller

The above is a fallacy of questionable cause. The first statement is that what follows are facts of what local schools have caused (i. e. , the phrase “gives us”). However, the facts that follow are examples of how students in the United States perform more poorly than those from other countries. Local control and unfavorable comparisons occur simultaneously, which does not mean that the former caused the latter. Correlation between two variables does not justify attribution of causation.

Variables other than local control might have caused unfavorable performance relative to students from other countries, for example, United States’ students and/or parents may not value education and/or standardized testing. When you look at what local control of education has wrought, the conclusion is inescapable: we must carry [Horace] Mann’s insights to their logical end and nationalize our schools, to some degree (p. 93). The above is a fallacy of setting up a false dilemma.

Even if local control did cause the poor performance of students in the United States, there are alternatives other than to “nationalize our schools, to some degree” (presumably beyond currently spending “$42 billion,” p. 97). For example, public schools could be replaced by private and religious schools, as well as by those established by other non-profit or for-profit organizations. Parents could choose their children’s schools – and the role of the federal government would be limited to paying tuition.

Many reformers across the political spectrum agree that local control has become a disaster for our schools. But the case against it is almost never articulated (p. 94). The above is a fallacy of inconsistency. If all of these reformers “almost never” articulate their positions, how can Miller know about their agreement? Do they confide only in Miller or is he able to read their minds?


Miller, M. (2008). First, kill all the school boards. The Atlantic, 301, 92-97.

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