Qualls letter a disappointment

To the editor:

Sheila Qualls’ recent guest editorial follows an all too familiar rhetorical strategy: Attack the press and insult your opponents. The strategy is as predictable as it is disappointing.

Sheila Qualls and her husband Kendall are highly accomplished people with inspiring life stories. No one is doubting that. At the same time, her arguments are unfair and logically indefensible.

They are unfair because she went out of her way to make ordinary civic actions such as speaking to a reporter or writing a letter to the editor sound like cowardly acts. Keep in mind, this came from a person who refused to take questions from a public audience.

To make matters worse, after criticizing a news story as fallacious, she proceeded to make a series of fallacious claims. To cite but two of several possible examples, she described her critics as “cowards” and as “lily-white liberals.”

As a former journalist, Ms. Qualls surely knows, those phrases count as textbook examples of logical fallacies — the ad hominem attack and loaded language to be specific. She went on to claim “there’s much evidence to indicate (critical race theory) is not only inaccurate but harmful to students.”

At last week’s meeting she went into more detail by arguing that efforts to teach about “equity and inclusion” should be viewed as stalking horse schemes to advance a Marxist agenda — a story that she insisted would surely end in Soviet and North Korean miseries. To that one must say that in the academy as in the courts, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Unfortunately, what little evidence we heard in her presentation was either taken from partisan sources (as in the polling data of Minnesota families) or cherry picked out of context (as with the quotations from the NEA) to support long-discredited narratives about public education and racial justice.

Moreover, as all fair-minded readers will recognize, despite Ms. Qualls’ claims to the contrary, the one who advances an argument has the burden of proof. And attempting to shift the burden of proof onto one’s opponents is yet another classic fallacy.

The bottom line is that her claims about critical race theory are fallacious at best.

Rick Herder


— Rick Herder is a professor of communication studies at Southwest Minnesota State University


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