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SAMPLE COMPARATIVE RHETORICAL ANALYSIS PAPER, UNIT 1.

Note that this sample paper is a successful, but not


exceptional, response to the first unit assignment (so it might earn a solid B). It is also double the word minimum.

Educational Opportunity and Economic Inequality


Presently, education and the economy are great concerns in the United States; however,
these topics are not mutually exclusive. Many argue that education offers those with low incomes
a way to move into the middle or higher classes; others argue that education cannot resolve the
problem of economic inequality. Two recent articles address and argue this issue. The first, Why
Education Is Not an Economic Panacea by John Marsh, was originally published in Marsh's
non-fiction book Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality in
2011 and later appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In it, Marsh argues that
education is not the solution for economic inequality, and that economic inequality must be fixed
to solve current problems with education. The second article is For Poor, Leap to College Often
Ends in a Hard Fall written by Jason DeParle and published in the New York Times. DeParle
argues that low-income students struggle when striving for upward mobility and typically are
less likely to succeed and cross the class gap. While both have similar messages and purposes
to change the minds of people who think that education gives poor people a chance to succeed
economically, DeParle is likely to be more effective in changing his readers minds than Marsh
because he makes appeals to his audience that convince them to care about the people affected,
balances the range of appeals he makes more fluidly, and his use of evidence and in-depth
examples is likely to be more convincing for his particular audience.
As a journalist, DeParle uses the third-person point-of-view and ultimately keeps himself
out of the texta style his New York Times readers expect. However, he also focuses on
emotional appeal in order to draw readers into recognize and care about the problem hes writing
about. He focuses on the stories of three women, Angelica, Melissa, and Bianca from Galveston,
Texas. He tells the stories of their successes and failures in extensive detail, to the point that he
sections off entire portions of his piece to their specific stories. Concerning the educational
frustrations of the poor, DeParle emphasizes, By eighth grade, Melissa was at the top of her

class and sampling a course at a private high school. She yearned to apply there but swore the
opposite to her mother and grandparents. Protecting families from their own ambition is a skill
many poor students learn. I knew we didnt have the money, Melissa said. I felt like I had no
right to ask (DeParle). The majority of his article summarizes every major event in the girls
lives that led up to this point in their education, as well as how their stories relate to each other,
solidifying both logical and emotional appeals and helping his audience understand and
sympathize with the girls struggles.
In contrast, Marsh focuses on his personal experiences as a professor, specifically in the
Odyssey Program, in his effort to evoke sympathy from his readers. In this program, people
living at or below 150% of the poverty level and between the ages 18 and 45 could attend night
classes for college credit that could be transferred to other colleges in the future. Marsh focuses a
little on the individual human aspect of the situation, recalling, Our valedictorian, a brilliant
young African-American woman who had been chosen by her fellow students to represent the
class, gave a moving speech, thanking each of the professors individually for their time and
describing what she had learned from each (Marsh 914). However, this is one of the only
mentions of a singular persons experience, notably an unnamed person, besides that of
colleagues and other educators. Failing to include more of the students personal stories makes it
more difficult for his Chronicle of Higher Education readers to truly empathize with the plight of
the disadvantaged, less likely to see the problem as one that affects real people whom they might
like, and therefore less likely to open their minds to his point that education alone cannot change
the economic inequality in our society. While both articles make appeals to their readers
emotions, Marsh refers mainly to his own experience and paints us the image of fading hope by
relating it to the dwindling numbers in his classroom. DeParle evokes a fuller picture of the lives

of the three girls, allowing readers to share their struggle and feel the injustice when their
families and their colleges fail to support them.
Appealing to readers emotions is certainly an effective way to establish a point and gain
readers support for an argument, but appealing only to emotion is usually a poor tactic when
writing to an audience of educated readers. Unlike Marsh, DeParle does not neglect other
strategies. He uses as many emotional tugs as Marsh, if not more, and also includes various solid
statistics and facts, backed by individuals associated with colleges such as Stanford and Harvard.
DeParle takes care to mesh his story and his facts well, noting, If Melissa and Angelica felt that
heading off to university set them apart from other low-income students, they were right. Fewer
than 30 percent of students in the bottom quarter of incomes even enroll in four-year school. And
among that group, fewer than half graduate (DeParle). By using this approach, DeParle helps
his readers understand the magnitude of the problem and, by using factual evidence, appears
credible in the eyes of his readers. At another point in the article, DeParle states, It adds to fears
over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward
mobility that counterparts in Canada and Western Europe. Thirty years ago, there was a 31
percent point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned
bachelors degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of
Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points (DeParle). Here, DeParle explains that the class gap differs
based on location and time, following through with evidence that solidifies his point and his
credibility in his readers eyes.
In contrast, not only does Marsh rarely make direct references to statistical evidence for
his argument, he fails to present evidence when he implies its existence. Marsh reports, One
could quote many authoritiesand any number of ordinary peoplewho hold such views about

the economic power of education. And those people are not wrong. Those who have advanced
degrees earn more than those who have bachelors degrees, who in turn earn more than those
who have high-school degrees, on down the line (Marsh 916). Notably, Marsh references the
potential to quote authorities. However, he fails to show the evidence to his readers. Rather, he
makes a general statement without any present evidence to support it, consequently implying all
those with advanced degrees earn more than all those who do not, rather than on average. This
hurts his credibility because of the failure to document specific evidence.
Possibly the most compelling difference in terms of rhetorical effectiveness is the
conclusion of each piece. The end of a text is where the writer provides the audience something
to remember. As a result, a weak conclusion can have a detrimental impact on the success of the
overall argument. Marsh's final sentence reads, More than anything, though, my association
with the Odyssey Project taught me that programs like it are neither necessary nor sufficient
responses to the problems of poverty and economic inequality in the United States (Marsh 919),
sounding more like a moral-of-the-story and limiting the impact to the creation of particular
types of programs. Considering the deliberative nature of Marsh's writing throughout the paper, I
think his Chronicle of Higher Education readers would expect more from his conclusion.
Without a call to action, Marsh risks minimal effect in terms of getting readers to change
idealistic beliefs in the power of education to cure societys problems. On the other hand, in his
conclusion, DeParle quotes one of the women, displaying her intent to carry on, I could have
done some things better, and Emory could have done some things better, [Angelica] said. But I
don't blame either one of us. Everyone knows life is unfairbeing low-income puts you at a
disadvantage. I just didn't understand the extent of the obstacles I was going to have to
overcome (DeParle). In using this quote, DeParle is straightforward and uses Angelica's own

words to express her conflict and understanding. Finishing with this, DeParle associates the
problems of inequality at least partially with students lack of education and understanding of
what is expected of them. Because DeParle finishes on this note, his point resonates in the mind
of his readers through the voice of Angelica. Angelicas words echo DeParles pointbeing lowincome creates a struggle with educationand ties it to a human being, which has great chance
of impacting the audience.
The effectiveness of articles like these are important because, unless people understand
that economic inequality cannot be solved by educational institutions, the class gap will remain
the same or even widen. This is detrimental to the general education and skill of society, as well
as the economy and the overall quality of life. Both articles include strong influences on their
readers emotions, but DeParle also includes more solid evidence. Lastly, Marshs dull
conclusion pales in comparison to DeParles more memorable one. Ultimately, DeParles balance
of evidence and emotional testimony is more likely to prompt his readers to think more about the
role educational institutions can play in resolving the problem of economic inequality.

Works Cited
DeParle, Jason. "For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall." New York Times. 22
December 2012. Web. 12 September 2013.
Marsh, John. Why Education Is Not an Economic Panacea. Everythings an Argument: With
Readings. Lunsford, Andrea A., John J. Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martins, 2013. 912-919.