That’s not hypocrisy

Actor Matt Damon is an advocate for public schools. He also is currently sending his kids to a private school.  When asked why his kids aren’t going to public schools, his answer was that they were not progressive enough.  The conservative media went crazy.  Sean Hannity in this VIDEO says:

If you love public schools so much, why don’t you send your own kids there, Matty?

The piece is, of course, titled “Hollywood Hypocrite?”.  First, there’s the obvious problem with the tu quoque fallacy – hypocrisy is rarely relevant to the acceptability of the conclusion, and is more a matter of turning our attention to the person speaking and less to the matter at hand.  Hence we call it a specie of ad hominem.

But I don’t see Damon’s case as hypocrisy.  Being a public school advocate means that you want the public schools to be better and teachers to be treated with dignity.  If you live in a place where those ends aren’t being met, it’s not hypocrisy for you to send your kids to private schools.  You may not be buying in by sending your kids in, but you still pay your property taxes and can still look out for teachers.  That’s not hypocrisy, because there’s no inconsistency there.  It’s like saying: We should fix the refrigerator, but move the food to your portable cooler in the meantime.

3 thoughts on “That’s not hypocrisy”

  1. There are actually a large number of situations in which you can be for an institution or practice without participating in it. Public transport is an excellent example: A resident of Los Angeles might like to be able to take the bus all the time, but at the same time might rarely have the option without suffering mayor inconveniences.

    Maybe my favorite example is driving on the right side of the street: While a UK resident might be a big proponent for driving on the right side (say, because it would reduce production costs of cars, or because it would reduce hassle when traveling to and from mainland Europe), it would not be advisable to start driving on the right without everyone participating.

  2. Hey Sebastian, A really nice example. We’ve had a number of cases in front of us recently where we’ve not only noted that there are cases of not practicing what we preach isn’t inconsistent, but actually demonstrates one’s case. For example, consider the father who tells his son not to smoke because it’s bad for him and addictive. But the father, too, smokes. Now, that’s inconsistent, but the inconsistency shows that the reasons (especially the addiction point) are good.

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