Rhetorical Figures, Vol. I.i
#1 | Anesis | Concluding with a sentence or phrase that diminishes the effect of what was previously stated
There was a time — which now seems distant — when most people assumed that students’ performance in school was largely determined by their own efforts and by the circumstances and support of their family, not by their teachers. There were good teachers and mediocre teachers, even bad teachers, but in the end, most public schools offered ample opportunity for education to those willing to pursue it. The annual Gallup poll about education shows that Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the quality of the nation’s schools, but 77 percent of public school parents award their own child’s public school a grade of A or B, the highest level of approval since the question was first asked in 1985.
In this excerpt, anesis reveals the bearing language has within a field like statistics. Ravich shows how the Gallup numbers (measurements of the public’s perception) shift when the language shifts, how an abstract question about the state of American public education provokes ~55% negative response(“overwhelmingly”), while a question posed to a specific group(“public school parents”) about the quality of an education in which they have a stake(“own child’s public school”) provokes ~75% positive response. The sentence bends back on itself at the conjunction, but. The first premise is tempered and clarified by the specificity of the second.
It is not globalization or deindustrialization or poverty or our coarse popular culture or predatory financial practices that bear responsibility: it’s the public schools, their teachers, and their unions.