Charter Schools, Hitler, and Godwin's Law
We’ve always been supporters of school choice, which includes charter schools and education vouchers for low-income families. Taxpayer groups nationwide support school choice because what American K-12 education really needs is more choice and competition, not necessarily more money.
Since 1970, U.S. per student spending has increased more than 100% after inflation. Despite this infusion of tax dollars, twelfth grade NAEP math, reading, and science scores are virtually unchanged, and the U.S. still performs below many industrialized countries on international math and science comparisons. And yes, these international comparisons are apples-to-apples comparisons and are not comparisons between average American students and elite European and Asian students.
Legislator compares charter school governance to Hitler
Unfortunately, some legislators -- including Republicans -- either don’t like the charter school concept and/or don’t like the way some charter schools are governed. In a recent Administrative Rules Committee meeting, Rep. Dave Ure (R – Kamas) said the following:
“Adolf Hitler started virtually the same way we’re starting this . . . If you read about the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler, he started the very same way we’ve started some of these charter schools.”
Ure didn’t elaborate on this analogy, and unfortunately no one asked him to. As a taxpayer group, we don’t claim to be Hitler experts, but we are quite certain that the Hitler analogy is quite a stretch. Below, we list several links to Wikipedia entries regarding Hitler’s rise to power.
Treaty of Versailles (see also World War I reparations)
Beer Hall Putsch
Mein Kampf (see also Anti-Semitism, Drang nach Osten and Lebensraum)
Sturmabteilung (The SA)
Schutzstaffel (The SS)
But of course, if Utah charter schools invade Poland and bomb Coventry, we’ll admit that Ure was right.
First Application of Godwin’s Law in Recent History of Utah Legislature
Several weeks ago, a reader of our blog referred to Godwin’s Law, just in time for Rep. Ure's comments. According to Wikipedia,
Godwin's Law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a mainstay of Internet culture, an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. It is particularly concerned with logical fallacies such as reductio ad Hitlerum, wherein an idea is unduly dismissed or rejected on ground of it being associated with persons generally considered "evil".
The law states: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
Although Godwin’s Law originally applied to online discussion, there’s no reason to believe that this could not apply to legislative debates as well. The Wikipedia entry on Godwin’s Law also notes
There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress.
Charters under attack?
Last year, the Legislature imposed a cap on new charter schools. Recently, Salt Lake Tribune reporters, editorialists, and columnists have covered the charter school issue negatively.
School choice has been a hotly debated issue in Utah for almost ten years. Opponents of school choice have strategically focused their attention on preventing means-tested vouchers while looking the other way on charter schools. This was a miscalculation. School choice opponents seriously underestimated the demand for charter schools.
Now that charter school enrollment is booming and vouchers are likely to pass in the next legislative session, school choice opponents are rethinking their strategy, but they are too late. The charter school genie is out of the bottle, and the UEA-faction within the Utah Republican Party continues to shrink.