Instructor Reflection – Questioning Logical Fallacies (9.1)

By Kerri Hauman, Associate Professor, Transylvania University

Jewell Boyd’s “Questioning Logical Fallacies” is a true liberal arts writing project. Please allow a brief digression about “liberal arts” in order to explain what I mean. At Transylvania University, like at many other liberal arts institutions, we begin talking to students about the importance of making connections on their first day on campus. They should seek connections between what they’re doing in their General Education Biology class and what they’re learning in their Art History class. In trying to solve a complex problem in their Senior Seminar Economics class, they should consider readings, conversations, papers written, and problems pursued in all of the classes they’ve taken leading up to that capstone course. And the
connections students make should not be limited to learning and experiences within the walls of the university; they should seek out and make connections to civic engagement opportunities, world events, pop culture, and other aspects of their lives and passions.

Therefore, when Jewell came to me as a student in my Feminist Rhetorics class (a 3000-level elective course within our Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication (WRC) major) telling me her idea for her final project stemmed from connections she made between our class readings and
the conversations and readings she’d had in the Introduction to Classical Rhetoric course she had recently taken, I was thrilled. Jewell told me our class conversations made her reconsider what she had thought about logical fallacies, rhetorical content that had seemed rather innocuous just a few months prior during conversations in Intro to Classical Rhetoric. Whereas previously, learning about logical fallacies in order to consider the strength of one’s own and others’ arguments had seemed a rather innocent if not helpful task, she was now beginning to re-consider the presumed straightforward, objective nature with which logical fallacies are often presented. And she started wondering if, as with other topics we had considered in class, the very idea of a logical fallacy as well as the way logical fallacies are often discussed might be excluding or devaluing marginalized groups, particularly women.

Jewell worked hard to develop her ideas over the next several weeks of our class and eventually produced a tight, insightful, well-supported argument, which she presented in a traditional 18-page paper that brought together sources and conversations from a number of other classes she’d taken, including Digital Rhetoric and a sociology course titled “Gender and Society.” That paper is not, of course, exactly what you see here in TheJump+, and that is because Jewell chose to expand upon the project she originally produced for Feminist Rhetorics and to revise it—especially by remediating it into a digital format—for her Senior Seminar project. All WRC majors take a capstone course that we call Senior Seminar, and the
apex of that course is the completion of a project that, to oversimplify, can take pretty much any form the student would like as long as it demonstrates thoughtful engagement with their previous three years’ worth of WRC coursework. We encourage but do not require the use of multiple media; the same is true for remixing or revising prior projects.

At the end of Senior Seminar, Jewell presented and defended the site you see here in front of a panel of two TU faculty—the professor of the Senior Seminar course and me—and one TU alum who has continued to study communication and has also added political organizing and activism to her achievements. All of us were deeply impressed with Jewell’s ability to critically examine logical fallacies; to pull together such a range of content, including creating multimedia content of her own in the form of videos and blog posts embedded in the site; and to present it all in such a well-designed site that is carefully pitched at an audience that may not have any prior knowledge of feminist or classical rhetorics. I hope not only that all readers
of this journal will enjoy Jewell’s piece as much as I did but also that they will follow Jewell’s lead and question the seemingly innocuous content they encounter, whether that’s in a classroom, a living room, or a break room.