Teachers: You Are Being Gaslit

Michele Merritt
Digital Diplomacy
Published in
8 min readJul 13, 2020

And you have the power to shut it down

Whenever I teach logic, one of my favorite fallacies to cover is bandwagon, mostly because I get to use a Saturday Night Live skit to demonstrate it. You know the bandwagon fallacy: if enough people believe something, it must be true? It’s a quick and simple example of crappy reasoning.

In this particular “Weekend Update” skit, Jason Sudeikis, playing Mitch McConnell, says, “Remember school? If we all do it, we can’t get in trouble?” The faulty reasoning is of course that if enough people do something, it makes it acceptable. I can hear my mom now, every time I complained I was not allowed to do what all my other ‘cool’ friends were doing. “If everyone started jumping off bridges, would you want to do THAT?” Fair enough, mom.

Then again, when you think about the principles behind worker strikes, they are oddly reminiscent of this fallacious bandwagon inference. If we all refuse to show up to work, our employers will be forced to address our concerns, right?

When I discuss the bandwagon fallacy, I always tell my students, even if you all refused to complete any assignments this semester, I could technically fail all of you. I often think about what it would be like if they actually did organize a protest like this. Would I really give them all Fs? What would that look like and how would it impact my reputation as a professor? To be honest, the whole exercise makes me realize how tenuous my authority as their instructor really is. The same fragile authority is held by school administrators. There are more of us (teachers) than them. A brief history of strikes levied by educational workers quickly reveals that when teachers organize and unionize, they can change policies, procedures, and working conditions. It’s time to start thinking about what a national strike — among university and K-12 instructors alike — might look like.

If you are like me, the administration at your school is scrambling to make plans for how best to navigate education during a pandemic — a pandemic that is not going anywhere anytime soon. Perhaps you have received one of the emails so many of my colleagues at various schools are getting that say something to the effect of: “We have no idea what is going on or how we are going to manage all of this safely and…

Michele Merritt
Digital Diplomacy

Philosophy professor. Adoptee. Advocate. Activist. Marathon swimmer. Cheese consumer. I write about dogs a lot. michelemerritt.com