and crumbling facades
In the latest newsletter from the office of the rector at St Sithians, Celeste Gilardi addresses a debate I have been a small part of. I am struck by the number of fallacious arguments employed by Gilardi. Pressing them with logic, the arguments collapse in on themselves.
*Celeste Gilardi was given the chance to comment on a draft of this post, but did not respond. See full newsletter in footer.
(1) Royal “we”
Most striking is the use of religion that cannot coexist with the stated religious position of the school. Saints claims to be a church school that is welcoming of pupils of all faiths, and of those of no faith (such as me). The sentence below can’t survive alongside such a claim.
There’s a choice to be made. You can be a Christian school, only for Christians, and say in official statements that Christ came to save us all – “One and All”. I suppose you can also be a Christian school that welcomes everyone, as Saints aims to be. But you cannot claim to be a Christian school, and claim to welcome all faiths, and then state on official platforms that “Christ came to save us all”.
Saints has welcomed Muslims and Jews and atheists (and their fees). And then told them in an official publication that a god other than their own came to “save all”.
Attempting to be all things to all people results in this sort of inconsistency. It makes you exclusionary in attempts to achieve some impossibly utopian degree of inclusivity.
(2) Appeal to (unproven) popularity
Here Gilardi assumes that having many supporters means that one is right. There is no such relationship.
The school’s “inclusivity” claim is refuted again. Those who have made considered, researched, cogent arguments are “othered” (to use the social justice lingo). You see, “inclusivity” in the official modern sense does not extend to people with differing opinions. It is all about the colour of your skin, your pairing of chromosomes, your licensed identity.
You’ll note the lack of evidence that her supporters outnumber her detractors. I’d be intrigued to see this proof. It would clash with my gut feel.
(3) Straw man
This statement incorporates a grave allegation. It says that those who have opposed and questioned recent actions by the school are racist and sexist. Specifically, that they have claimed “one race and/or gender is… inherently superior or inferior to another”.
I challenge Gilardi to demonstrate where this has happened. Chiefly, I invite her to find this in pieces I have written or the petition signed by hundreds of people. I have seen the rare racist and sexist comment online We always will. I caution against using those to tar the many of us who do no such thing.
Far more productive – and inclusive – than the defensive and offensive stance would be to acknowledge the true nature of the opposition, and to address that.
(4) Straw man. Royal “we”. Campaign speak.
The attempt at fraternity with Jesus Christ is cynical. Many of those challenging the school do so from a Christian basis. You may challenge them back on that same footing. But what you have done here is attempt to discredit their reading of the Bible. That is divisive and unfair.
Of course, you’ve not done any work to demonstrate that Jesus would, in fact, agree with you. Just the assertion.
In the same breath you claim the same maverick ground that Jesus occasionally occupied. In reality, you are not the little guy. You have the power. You are not striking out against “the man”. You are the man.
The evidence is most clear in the American academy. You are safely behind Harvard. They have race-based admissions – which puts hard-working Asian students out of luck. They endorse preferred gender pronouns.
Women’s colleges increasingly admit trans women. And the most powerful voices in the mainstream media, such as the Washington Post, applaud them.
Academic institutions broadly are dominated by firmly (I’d suggest “far”) left faculties. Conservative faculty numbers have dwindled in recent years. Male enrolment and graduation is also tanking.
“Hospitable and welcoming especially to the outcasts and the poor”. This sounds very caring. What is your policy to parents who fall on hard times and can no longer afford the fees? I understand there are charities that try to assist. But the answer is that you exclude those who can’t pay their fees. And that is right. Failing to do so would discriminate against those who do pay. This is the real world. I suggest that the sort of language that we hear on political campaign trails is unhelpful and inaccurate. I is campaign speak.
Note the straw man, too. No prominent voices in this debate favour unfair racial and sexual discrimination and exclusion. There is good discrimination. Only the fastest runner can get the medal – we rightly discriminate in who gets the trophy. You also cannot always include someone without excluding someone else.
(5) Begging the question
This is an extraordinary claim. It would have us believe that critical race theory (CRT) has always been used. Alongside critical gender theory (CGT). And that social emotional learning (SEL) has long been policy. That males have always been free to play rugby with females on Baytopp or occupy places in the girls’ tennis team. That a female has always had a process available to gain the right to shower with the lads after hockey.
Let’s be generous and grant you that the gender “inclusion” wasn’t a change in policy, but merely an “improvement” in the way we interpret and apply policy and logic. That is, a “trans girl” is and always has been a girl. That we only recently started interpreting “girl” properly. I’d suggest this is an admission that you’ve undertaken major decisions with far-reaching impact, all without any change in policy to match it.
This begs the question. If policies have not changed, why have they not changed? If you have started using SEL, how did that happen if policy did not change?
But do you? Do you acknowledge the interpretation – religious or not – that “girl” in the context of a “girls’ school” means biological girl? Simple logic says you have not. Do you refuse this even as a fair interpretation that many parents hold in good faith? One that ought to fall inside your purported spectrum of respect and inclusion and diversity? I submit that any parent who holds that interpretation is being excluded.
(7) Cherry picking.
But is it? You know very well that many in the Methodist church do, and have for a long time, disagreed with the school’s official direction.
What connects all of these fallacies? I’d suggest one unifier is the refusal to pin one’s colours to anything. Dare I say it, a failure to man up.
Build a case. Back yourself. Pick a religious stance. Stick to it. Open yourself to critique. Be brave enough to change course when the evidence supports it. Decide who you are including, and acknowledge who that will necessarily mean you are excluding. Otherwise fallacies pile on fallacies, and then collapse.