Grade Appeals and Informal Fallacies

As I was preparing for my class meeting about informal fallacies (specifically the appendix about informal fallacies in Writing Arguments), I realized that I've heard almost every one of these in the course of my duties as an administrator, specifically in the form of a grade appeal argument.

1. Student gets an F for missing fifteen class meetings. “I got an F, and I know I missed a lot of class, but I had car trouble, and then I got mono, and then I had a family emergency, and then I got a stomach virus, and then I got a sinus infection, and then I got arrested, and then I got called for jury duty.”
2. Student gets a D; got Cs/Ds/Fs on papers. “But I showed my papers to my tenth grade English teacher who's a friend of the family, and my roommate, and my sister, and my cousin, and they all think I should get an A or a B.”
3. Student gets an F. “But Mr. X is a terrible teacher! He wore the same holey black t-shirt every day and has an annoying high-pitched voice.”
4. Student gets a D. “But I got an A as my interim grade and a B on the first paper.”
5. Student gets a D. “But I came to class every day.”
6. Student gets a C. “But my dad is a professor at this school.”
7. Student: “Hello, I need to talk to you. I got an F in my 101 class, and my teacher is the worst teacher I've ever had in my life...”
8. Student gets a C. “But I should have gotten an A because I did outstanding work in the class.”
9. Student gets a C. “But I always got As on my papers in high school.”
10. Student gets an F. “But I'll lose my TOPS!”

Obviously there are legitimate arguments to be made in grade appeal cases, but these are not among them. Their next assignment is a definition argument, so I think it might be interesting to tie these two activities together. A successful grade appeal argument would persuade the administration that the teacher engaged in "arbitrary and capricious grading" and would argue that according to the program standards and outcomes and course policies, the student deserves a different grade. And, of course, any time a teacher gives a grade to a student's work, that is a definition argument (placing the work in a category according to the criteria of that category).


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That's quite a set of themed

That's quite a set of themed fallacies you have there. Yikes. And I've heard many of those too.

One of my favorite fallacy-induced quiz questions is this one:
Multiple choice. A student tells an instructor, “I deserve to pass this course because I’ve had a lot of problems at home.” What informal fallacy is this?
a) Faulty Analogy b) Appeal to Pity
c) Slippery Slope d) Hasty Generalization

The grade appeal assignment sounds like a really good one since in Writing Arguments students can see how one student tried to do something similar: waive the mathematics requirement.

I wonder if a grade should be considered more of a hybrid of definitional and evaluative arguments since in grading you also judge documents, etc. by certain criteria.

Tim N. Taylor

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