Hemisphere Fallacy! Drink!

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Fordham hasn’t even released its new report explaining why all sensible people favor the creation of an unstoppable national juggernaut to safeguard the decentralization of America’s federal system of government, and we already have to drink up.

In the new Gadfly, Mike Petrilli writes:

Speaking for the anti-“tight” right, Greene argues that “dictating the ends with a national set of standards, curriculum, and assessments will necessarily dictate much of the means.” (And, to be fair, he did so in a witty and amusing blog post, in which he proposed a “drinking game” for readers of Fordham’s forthcoming ESEA proposal, due out next week.)

But it’s unclear why he finds the concept of “tight-loose” so preposterous. Consider this: Here are the most likely potential mandates that Congress might attach to federal Title I funding in the next ESEA:

  1. States must adopt rigorous academic standards (and cut scores) in English and math that imply readiness for college and career.
  2. States must test students annually in English and math.
  3. States must build assessments and data systems to allow for individual student growth to be tracked over time.
  4. States must develop standards and assessments in science and history, too.
  5. States must rate schools according to a prescriptive formula (i.e., AYP).
  6. States must intervene in schools that fail to make AYP for several years in a row, or in schools that are among the lowest-performing in the state.
  7. States must develop rigorous teacher evaluation systems and ensure a more equitable distribution of effective teachers.
  8. States must ensure that Title I schools receive comparable resources—including good teachers and real per-pupil dollars—as those received by non-Title I schools.

The way Greene argues it, Congress has to either choose “none of the above” or “all of the above.” But of course it doesn’t. We at Fordham would select items one through four off this a la carte menu, and leave the rest for states to decide. That, to us, would be “tight-loose” in action.

Hemisphere fallacy! Drink!

Mike continues:

Does Jay believe none of these should be required? And if so, isn’t he arguing for federal taxpayers to just leave the money on the stump? Why not make the principled conservative case and say that Title I and other federal funding streams should simply be eliminated?


Let’s quit with all the over-the-top rhetoric. Give the list of eight mandates above a good look. Congress is likely to move ahead with the first few and will definitely reject the last few; the real debate is about the ones in the middle. In other words, we’ll be arguing over the precise definition of “tight-loose,” regardless of what the anti-“tight” right or the anti-“loose” left have to say about it.

I’m not Jay, but I think the answer to all this is obvious:

  • Mike is wrong to question Jay’s integrity by arguing that “principle” requires him to either support federal education mandates or support repeal of Title I;
  • Mike is wrong to imply that it’s unserious or “over the top” to debate the merits of anything other than the hemisphere-style middle ground that is likely to be the locus of congressional debate in the immediate term; and
  • Mike is self-contradictory to do both in the same post.

Oh, and by the way – “tight/loose”! Drink!

10 Responses to Hemisphere Fallacy! Drink!

  1. matthewladner says:


    Consume! You violated the first rule “no drink, drank or drunk”

  2. matthewladner says:

    By the way, I was pointing my elbow at Greg when I said that.

    But, by reciting the rule, I had to consume three times myself.

    Someone call me a cab…

  3. Greg Forster says:

    I cheerfully admit to being unfamiliar with the protocol for drinking games. Perhaps I should learn, since I have a funny feeling this “drinking game” meme is going to pop up regularly in our debates with Fordham from now on. It’s highly efficient! Instead of retyping the whole hemisphere fallacy point, I can just type “Hemisphere fallacy! Drink!”

    Wait, was that a violation?

  4. matthewladner says:

    Yes! Consume!

    As a proud graduate of the Number One Party School in America, I am happy to be of service:

    The first rule is typically a prohibition on the use of the words “drink” “drank” or “drunk.” Any of those will require consumption.

    The second rule is typically no pointing with your fingers. Elbow pointing is okay.

    My memory gets a little fuzzy after that….

  5. Daniel Earley says:

    Are the folks at Fordham obtuse or just brazen? So much for any chance for a Martinelli.

    • allen says:

      There’s a third possibility.

      The folks at Fordham suffer “D.C.” nearsightedness, i.e. they can’t see anything beyond Washington D.C. I understand it’s a not uncommon affliction that results from drinking the water or, rather, the Kool-Aid.

      • Daniel Earley says:

        Kool-aid! Hmm…. perhaps for every evidence that Fordham is trapped in an echo chamber… well, that might ruin the game. Might need an IV drip.

  6. Patrick says:

    Seems I did underestimated this “tight-lose” phrase. I thought it was so utterly ridiculous sounding that they couldn’t possibly repeat it more than 3 or 4 times.

  7. Matthew Ladner says:

    Another rule: metaphorical alcohol abuse (spilling) is punished by actual abuse (consumption).

  8. concerned says:

    Mike said, “We at Fordham would select items one through four off this a la carte menu, and leave the rest for states to decide. That, to us, would be “tight-loose” in action.”

    Many states started curriculum alignment initiatives years ago (http://www.dhe.mo.gov/cai/) The math competitencies developed in Missouri, with the help of college and university faculty, where much higher quality than previous state standards.

    Unfortunately, these competencies, which were never presented to the schools, will never see the light of day now that MO has signed-on to Common Core. (Recall that Fordham gave CC math an A-)

    Doesn’t it make more sense to involve state-level college and university subject experts in the development of “college and career readiness” standards than to turn it over to federal level educrats?

    The fact that MA and CA, which had math standards far superior to CC, caved should give us all pause!

    CC Math will ensure that US students remain here (
    see photo) at http://concernedabouteducation.posterous.com/
    for many years to come!!

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