Just Be Nice

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A Rhetorical Analysis of “Just Be Nice”

Zahra Khan

Eng101

Feburary 19, 2013

A Rhetorical Analysis of “Just Be Nice”

The article “Just be Nice” is written by Stephen L. Carter. Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at the Yale Law School. This article was written for the Yale Alumni Magazine in May 1998, and was a response to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s remarks that the citizenry should give up their rude ways and was later included in Civility Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy. In his essay titled Just Be Nice, Carter addresses the dissimilarity between rights and civility. There are many people that can learn from this article, but mainly the article was written for fellow scholars; law students are we abusing the rights that we have as a people in this country.

In this article, Carter compares the norms of today’s society with the time when he was growing up. Particularly, he compares the state of civility. According to him, the standards of civility have declined considerably from his time as a young boy. The author draws a contrast from his school days by saying that nowadays when a school tries to teach manners, it makes news. Furthermore, the schools are predominantly concerened with teaching norms relating to sex. He says when he was a child, schools would teach manner courses, and parents trusted the school’s judgement. The author believes that people have forgotten how to conduct themselves and feels it is primarily due to misunderstanding of the intent of all the rights that are afforded to all of us. According to Carter, cynicism has replaced trust, and because of our cynicism, we do not trust others and “place our trust in the vague and conversation stifling language of rights intead” (para. 4). At the heart of heart Carter’s argument is the notion of “tradition.” Carter strongly believes that in certain cases...
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