First, I'd like to know the technical term for this fallacy, and then I'd like at least one down-to-earth example that I can refer to in a section heading.

Background: Down Syndrome tends to feature some cognitive impairment, but this can range from mild to moderate etc. etc. A nasty guy is arguing that Student's intellectual disability is moderate, rather than mild. However, as offensive as his insistence on that point is, it's still irrelevant, because Student still has the right to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). (The nasty guy is suggesting that because Student's impairment is moderate, Student's IEP goals are wildly undoable. But IDEA 2004 guarantees Student the right to FAPE regardless. FAPE would still be guaranteed even if the impairment were profound. FAPE is FAPE, and IDEA is for everyone.)

I can explain it in the document I'm drafting, exactly as I explained it here, but I would also like to label it for the fallacious argument that it is. For example, another section of my draft is called

Individualization vs. Least Restrictive Environment: A False Dichotomy

That one is okay as is, because everybody and his cousin understands false dichotomy.

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    Labelling someone 'a nasty guy' is prejudicial; he's not here to defend himself. One supposes that 'profound', moderate' and 'mild' are grades that are accepted in the standard terminology here, and that some people are unfortunate enough to be indisputably in the various classes. Differences of opinion are bound to occur. This mars this question as containing a rant. / If said person disputing the assessment is saying that a lower assessment leads to disqualification, then assuming your facts are correct, he is just wrong, and the challenging of the classification academic. Jun 27, 2018 at 0:54
  • @EdwinAshworth - As long as my question is basically well posed, I don't think there's any rule about not letting any ranting show. Whether the guy is nasty or not, or wrong or not in his application of the law, is irrelevant to my question. However, you're welcome to edit out the rant part. You would have more objectivity and would have an easier time doing that than I. Jun 27, 2018 at 2:09
  • Honestly, I don’t see any fallacy. I’m not familiar with FAPE or IEP or IDEA 2004, but I would assume that the “appropriate” in FAPE is there to allow for goals to be adjusted based on an individual’s capabilities. So all I see is a difference of opinion on level of impairment which leads to a difference of opinion on what an “appropriate” set of goals might be.
    – Jim
    Jun 27, 2018 at 3:01
  • @Jim - Sorry, I was in a hurry and skipped over all the legal foundations. Basically, IDEA 2004 says that all children are to be educated with the state's general curriculum. So, the guy I called "nasty" argued that this particular student wasn't smart enough to do the general curriculum. Well, actually his Intellectual Disability (ID) was indeed mild, according to his measured IQ, level of functioning, and the DSM-V, so the "nasty" guy was presenting both an unfounded AND irrelevant argument. Jun 27, 2018 at 6:45
  • Here's a source: US Department of Education’s 11/16/15 Dear Colleague letter, which includes this text: To help make certain that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards, we write to clarify that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. […] The IDEA Part B ... Jun 27, 2018 at 6:48

1 Answer 1


He's making an Irrelevant Conclusion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrelevant_conclusion

He seems to be arguing for what he wishes the state of the universe SHOULD BE, without dealing with the relevant practical argument you are making about what the legal state of the real universe ACTUALLY IS, and thus, what he is OBLIGATED to do.

He's making an argument for an irrelevant conclusion: nobody cares if he thinks resources should be withheld from a category of differently able person based on some category criteria he wants the rest of us to follow.

We already have a system that provides a full measure of help, no matter the subjective degree of ability of the subject person, and so unless mister man has the power to force his will upon everyone else, he's making an irrelevant argument for a possible political future he wants others to adopt, instead of coping with the pragmatic matter at hand: delivering whatever help that active, real law currently says is to be delivered to the subject.

Consider this part of this wiki article:

● Example 2: A and B are debating about the law. A: Does the law allow me to do that? B: The law should allow you to do that because this and that. B missed the point. The question was not if the law should allow, but if it does or not.


  • Mister man is a very powerful nasty person. // Your analysis is great. Now I just need one or more common examples or a catchy description. Jun 27, 2018 at 2:07
  • In case you're curious, here's the catchy thing I used to introduce the section: centered: A Rose is a Rose is a Rose // If Gertrude Stein had been the parent of a child with Down Syndrome, she might have penned a slightly different statement of the law of identity: // centered: A FAPE is a FAPE is a FAPE // (and then came the quote from the Dear Colleague letter etc.) Jun 27, 2018 at 6:52

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