Rhetorical Analysis of 'America Skips School"

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Kristofas Barsauskas
Professor Horbey
WRT 102.62
20 February 2011
Rhetoric: What We SHOULD Really Learn
We use rhetoric every day without even realizing it. Correctly using rhetoric on a specific group of people can drastically increase an arguments’ strength. Benjamin R. Barber wrote an article conveying his research on the failing school systems in the U.S titled America Skips School published in Harper’s Magazine. Barber uses rhetorical elements like ethos, pathos, and logos to build his argument. He establishes his credibility and then emotionally connects with his audience and explains who and what is to blame for the lack of quality education in America. Once he establishes a solid connection using these rhetorical techniques he effectively inspires the audience to change their ways and raise concern for the education system and construe the weaknesses at hand.

Barber’s use of ethos is almost unintentional in the extrinsic sense. The sole fact that his article was published in Harper’s Magazine builds him enough credibility for people to be willing to read it. It is hard to say much else about his extrinsic ethos besides that he is an accomplished writer and a well-known political scientist. The fact that Barber was allowed to publish his article in this magazine frames his credibility. The publisher here does most of the work when it comes down to the extrinsic ethos since the magazine is one for subscribers and not just something that’d randomly get picked up by just anyone. Barber may seem to be slacking on this end of the rhetoric but there isn’t much else someone could do in this situation. Barber’s ethos thus far may not be enough to cut it for some skeptics. However, his intrinsic ethos works marvelously to his advantage. Barber credits himself by his claims from the studies he had conducted and research he has done. “My sample of forty-seven-year-olds scored very well on the test. Not surprisingly, so did their seventeen-year-old children… The results of the test reveal again the deep hypocrisy that runs through our lamentations about education” (Barber 460). This displays his intrinsic ethos in that he becomes more credible because he himself has spent the time to research the subject opposed to just going with what he has read. This demonstrates his dedication to the validity of his facts. Another reason he appears trustworthy is that he quotes credible sources in his article like the Department of Education Statistics and the DOE. Barber’s research and studies make him a much more reliable source of information and truly add to his compelling argument. Barber makes use of intrinsic ethos in ways other than his research and studies. His style of writing in this particular article adequately connects with his intended audience. The way he relates to them, as being part of the problem himself. Where he constantly repeats the term “we…” when talking about the American people being responsible for the failing school system. He doesn’t point the finger while holding the gun; he reveals that he too, like all of his readers, are part of the problem. Putting his self to blame makes the reader more comfortable and to read; contra scolding someone and putting them down. Barber also utilizes intelligent writing by making his point clear and concise and avoids beating around the bush. But he also draws on vivid language to remind readers of his level of education in order to amplify his trustworthiness. Barber’s appeal and style of language assists him in affectively sharing his opinion. Barber utilizes other techniques to persuade his audience in agreeing with his personal views. One of the various tactics he uses is inductive reasoning by means of logos. In the beginning of his article Barber claims “…more than 3,000 youngsters will drop out today and every day for the rest of the school year, until about 600,000 are lost by June…” (Barber 457). This quote...
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