In our society, when a controversial concern is at hand, an impassioned debate often arises. In the heat of a contentious debate, an arguer may apply a method of rhetorical persuasion with the intention to influence the audience’s perception. In a 1998 publication of author, Steve Fainaru’s article entitled, “Mexican Children Get Hard Lesson,” he discusses the effects of a legislative regulation which outlaws non-citizen children in New Mexican schools in Deming, New Mexico to receive an education from our school system.
As a student myself, I was disheartened in learning that a young child’s right to an education and guidance toward a successful future can be completely revoked as a result of the child’s region of birth being outside of our country. A rhetorical fallacy is, in most cases, an incorrect argumentation in reasoning that results in a misconception. In this analysis, I will investigate both the favoring and the refusing interpretations of the argument regarding free education for immigrant children and I will identify the rhetorical fallacies portrayed by each view, used in attempt to defend their position.
Fainaru’s article was originally published in the Boston Globe, a newspaper that is far removed from the debate in New Mexico. In his commentary, Fainaru illustrates the “A”, side, the “pro” side of this argument in this passage including a statement: “It’s a tragedy, like we’ve been hit by a killer earthquake,” said Phoebe Watson,…former principal of Columbus Elementary School, who started the cross-border education program in the 1950s. “People who thought that they were going to get an education have been told that they can’t, and that’s one of the worst things that you can imagine.
Every child in the world deserves an education. ” (p. 133-4) In her statement, Ms. Watson expresses deep regret that many children no longer have the opportunity to receive an education through our academic system. All of Ms. Watson’s efforts toward organizing an educational program that allowed cross-border children to participate in our academics have been dishonored, and immigrant children are now overlooked. This passing of the legislative act disallowing non-citizens to attend American school systems is described as a “tragedy” and one of the “worst” actions taken against our youth.
Watson uses strongly adverse words like “tragedy,” a dramatic and serious event, and “worst,” meaning something being bad in the highest or greatest extreme, to convey the misfortunate conditions that have resulted from preventing aid in building the futures of these children. Strong, emotional terms are important for the audience to gain sympathy and consideration for these children who have been victimized by the legislature. Using the term “deserves,” which means to have claim to something, suggests that education is a human right that should be allotted, as opposed to solely being a privilege.
A weak-analogy fallacy involves making an improper comparison between two things that share a common feature. This fallacy can be observed in Ms. Watson’s statement in that the academic situation is compared to the catastrophes of a natural disaster, such as a killer earthquake, igniting fearful emotions in the reader. The careful use of vocabulary and dialect sets a strong base in influencing the audience to be certain that these children are not currently receiving the rights that they are worthy of.
Also, included in Fainaru’s article that was published in the Boston Globe, is a statement from a character who determines the “B”, side, or the “con” side of this debate: “I don’t think that there is anybody who opposes educating children, but why should the taxpayers of New Mexico pay for the children of Mexico? ” said Gordon Maxwell, a former California Highway Patrol officer who retired to Columbus five years ago. “Where is the cutoff point? ” he said. Are we going to take responsibility for teaching the children of Central America? Are we going to teach the children of South America? Are we going to teach all the children in Africa? ” (p. 134) In his statement, Mr. Gordon Maxwell exhibits angst and frustration with both immigration and tax issues. Maxwell clearly does not favor our nation academically supporting immigrants. He questions where the “cutoff” point stands, meaning where the legislature will draw the lines on educational funding for non-citizens.
Maxwell also speaks of taking “responsibility,” or having liability for providing education to children of Central and South Americas, implying that it is not an obligation of Americans, but a responsibility that we have chosen. Maxwell questioning if we are going to teach all the children “in” Africa made an impression on me that suggested that he believes not only will we provide the educational support of Central and South Americans into our American school systems, but that we will relocate our academic system into foreign lands and into their cultures.
A Slippery Slope fallacy is portrayed here, suggesting that one event will automatically lead to chain of other events. Maxwell seems to assume that because cross-border children are receiving educational benefits through our school systems, that our nation will also begin providing education populations world-wide. Such substantial arguments are used in suggestive attempt to warn the audience that providing academic support to non-Americans will be harmful to our system. Mr.
Maxwell may harbor some personally bias characteristics, yet, Fainaru may possibly be attempting to portray Mr. Maxwell as a bias subject in specifying that Mr. Maxwell is a former California Highway Patrol officer, which would be considered a False Authority on Fainaru’s behalf. A False Authority fallacy defends a claim with a biased or untrustworthy source. By pointing out that Maxwell is a former officer in the midst of his statement, it can easily be assumed that Maxwell contains such strong Patriotism that some negativity is projected toward other nations.
I personally believe that Ms. Watson’s “pro” argument was of stronger factual relevance to the issue at hand. Although her statement contains much emotional appeal, I found her belief of every child deserving a right to an education to have profound logic. Education is a fundamental element in building a successful future, which every human being is intellectually capable of, and if given the opportunity, ingenuity can erupt in anyone; any nationality, any gender, any orientation. We are one race – the human race. Mr. Gordon Maxwell’s statements relied much too heavily on fallacies, in a “what-if” type of tone, to persuade me to side with his beliefs. Mr. Maxwell’s account reinforced my original opinion in that fallacies often arise in heated disputes.
Fainaru, Steve. “Mexican Children Get Hard Lesson: New Laws Cut Them from N. M. Schools. ” in The Multi-Cultural Southwest: A Reader. A. G. Melendez, P. Moore, P. Pynes, and M. J. Young, eds. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2001. Originally published in Boston Globe. March 1, 1998: A1. Print. Word Count: 1,140