I Call Bullshit!

I generally respect Robert Seidenberg and Karen Decrow, both of whom have fought tirelessly for the civil rights of women in our society. But I have never read such unadulterated codswallop as their letter to the editor entitled “Like former President, boys lacking in literacy” published in the Post-Standard on Wednesday July 29th:

To the Editor: As economist Paul Krugman wrote in a recent column, we are in terrible fiscal trouble. It may be appropriate to point out that one reason is football. Research shows that most boys are not reading books. The main reason is not some wiring in their brains, as has been (foolishly) suggested. It is because they are spending their time on the playing fields, from elementary school on. They are exhausted by athletics, and have no time or energy to read. During an Al Gore-George W. Bush program at a religious institution, Gore mentioned that he had written a book. Bush replied that he read a book, the Bible. He got a great deal of applause. The bill has come in for his lack of wider literacy. We are now paying the price.

I call Bullshit! What is most upsetting is to read such tortured logic from such well-educated people: Our country has a financial crisis. Young boys do not read books. Boys don’t read books because they play sports. Therefore sports like football caused our financial crisis.

This is the classic logical fallacy ” Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (”after this, therefore because of this.”) Just because one thing follows another does not mean the first event caused the second.

Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was both a star football player at Stanford and a Rhodes scholar. In the most recent Rhodes scholarship class, Myron Rolle (a football player at Florida State) successfully completed his Rhodes candidate interview in Alabama and then flew to Maryland to play in the second half of his scheduled game. These are coincidences. Playing football doesn’t create Rhodes scholars–but it is equally fallacious to argue that playing sports causes young men to stop reading.

Secondly, even well into President Obama’s historic administration, the letter writers cannot resist a swipe at former President George W. Bush. That apparently never gets old. Move on. Obama’s in charge now–he reads, alot! He even writes his own books. He also played a lot of sports growing up. Oh, and by the way, the Bible is a dense and rich piece of literature. Saying that you have read the entire Bible is not evidence of poor literacy, but just the opposite.

I was moved to write this, as a Pop Warner Football and Little League baseball veteran, a four year varsity tennis letterman in high school and a pick-up basketball fiend for life. My family also instilled in me a lifetime appreciation of reading and I’m still the kind of reader with two or three books that I’m reading at any one time.


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