AP English Language teachers, composition teachers, and most language arts instructors—at some point in the year—address the rhetorical appeals available to writers and speakers. They want their students to practice the art of persuasion and to increase their skills at using the appeals to become better writers and speakers themselves, and to become good consumers and citizens as well. One of the important subsets within the study of logos is the review and analysis of logical fallacies. Some teachers offer the fallacies as a terminology list and require their students to learn definitions. Others spend more time on providing relevant examples of many of the fallacies that students might encounter in their reading of both fiction and nonfiction. While memorizing terms and their definitions, in and of itself, has limited value, helping students make connections to the concepts inherent in the logical fallacies by providing instances of their use in news articles, political speeches, advertisements, and other relevant material will help students be more likely to notice these fallacies in use and less likely to be unfairly influenced by their “persuasive pull.”
Now that Valentine’s Day is upon us, a day beset by visions of flowers, candy, hearts, and romance – as well as bottomless frustration and disappointment – we might take an opportunity to share a fun story by Max Shulman, written in 1951, called “Love is a Fallacy.” Although many of our sophisticated students of the 21st century might call this story “corny” or “silly” or even “irrelevant,” its application of logical fallacies within a tale of unrequited love, can provide a welcomed break from the serious study of rhetoric for one day. In addition to the story, we have a short video made by film students in 2010 that dramatizes it in a more modern setting. Asking students to read the story and view the film might be a light-hearted way to review a few of the more significant and commonly used logical fallacies and have some fun at the same time.