Rhetorical Analysis

This generation of college students has so much technology at their fingertips. Some people may believe that technology hinders the growth and potential of young adults, but Gideon Burton writes an article called, “Dear College Students: Don’t Let College Unplug Your Future.” He is in favor of college students using technology to set a path for a brighter future. He argues that college is likely to set back a student’s career and potential because it suppresses the use of modern technology in the learning process. His argument is bold, but effective; he is credible when speaking on this topic, speaks with an appropriate tone for his intended audience, uses pathos to connect and relate with the audience, and ties in the emotional reasoning with logical explanations that make his argument noteworthy.

He begins by directly addressing his audience, college students. He then acknowledges that the claims he is about to argue are bold, and even bolder for a college professor, such as himself, to be asserting. This is where the ethos, ethics and credibility, of the author come into play. This is a very small section in the opening of his article, but I believe that it immediately grabs the audience’s attention, and effectively uses ethos. When a college student reads that a college professor is exposing the weaknesses of college it makes the argument more effective from the start because the reader is now intrigued as to why a college professor would begin to debunk the institution he is a part of. The audience can now trust Burton’s argument more because he has established himself as a credible person to be addressing this issue since he has had experience with the issues that caused him to construct this argument.

When Burton says, “I care about you a lot so I’m prepared to break the code and say what needs to be said”, it effectively uses pathos to appeal to our emotions; The next logical curiosity is to know what he is claiming that is so important that he will humble himself for the sake of the audience. This portrays the humanness of the author; this appeals to the reader’s emotions because when they see someone more humanized and humble it makes them relatable, and a connection is established. Another instance that establishes a connection is when he says, “You deserve to know about this!” These two statements demonstrate, to the audience, that Burton believes his argument is important, so important that he is going to “break the code” and share it because they “deserve to know.” This hooks the audience and effectively persuades them to feel the same importance about his argument because he established his credibility, and expressed concern for his audience.

Burton continues to address college students directly, which further establishes the connection made in the introduction. He does this by making claims that most college students would experience with technology up until this point in their life such as, growing up knowing how to use computers and phones, and having the ability to transition from virtual and physical worlds effortlessly. He continues by listing the remarkable things we can do with technology; connect with people from around the world, up to the minute updates on news, instant communication, countless modes of creative expression, and interacting with people by sharing and commenting about ideas. Burton already connected with the audience emotionally, now he is relating to them by describing and being able to understand their experiences. He describes experiences that everyone is familiar with, but because they are so common in day to day life it is easy to overlook the significance; he describes them with an awe inspired tone that brings the audience out of the wind tunnel and helps them recognize that the technology they grew up with and use every day is more valuable than may be realized due to the commonality of it in this generation of college students.

This is effective because he directly addresses the audience; it feels like you’re having a conversation with Burton as you read his article. His tone is very conversational, but scholarly and mindful. It gives you the sense that he understands you and makes him more relatable. This emotional connection was important to establish in the beginning section because the next section is where the claims and reasons come in. Without pathos at work the argument would not be nearly as effective; if someone started making a very technical, logic based argument it would be very easy to acknowledge it, but then brush it off as just another crazy opinion because the author gave them no reason to care about their assertions, but because Burton connects and relates to his audience before he makes his claims it gives the audience a reason to care about and relate to the importance of his argument; the power of pathos!

Burton’s transition into a bold claim begins with an assumption of an experience that most college students can relate to; parents and teachers convincing you that college is the answer. Most college students are in college because they recognize the importance of it for their success. Somebody had to convince them of that; that’s why they’re there. Now that Burton probably has most of his audience on board with that assumption he reveals the bold claim that the alternative to college credentials is an online identity. He expands on this claim to make it appear less bold by describing the types of online activities that will constitute a transcript supplemental to a college transcript. By expanding on his claim he starts a train of logic for the audience; by unwrapping the claim it no longer seems so daunting. Burton continues appealing to logic by translating the claim into a real life example to support his claim that a degree program might not always give you the structure that will produce what is needed for success in the career field. He expounds more by referring back the effect of the remarkable things we can do with technology and how that use provides us with more real life experiences than a college degree program will because the college credentialing system isn’t as effective in allowing students to develop themselves and their knowledge as online tools are. By unraveling the claim, including a real life example, and referring back to an assumption he made earlier in the article that the majority of his audience could relate to, Burton created a logical train of thought for the readers to follow.

Next, Burton acknowledges the opposing side of the argument about having an online identity. He understands that people are going to scare his audience about having an online identity because of stalkers, plagiarism, and identity thieves “For good measure.” He then offers the “flip side” to that argument by providing another real life example about a woman who got a job because her blog was her resume; it showed off her qualities and capabilities in a real life situation. Acknowledging the other side of the argument is effective; it demonstrates Burton’s knowledge of the opposition, and even with this knowledge he still believes his argument stands. This adds on to Burton’s credibility; he is seen as aware and knowledgeable which benefits his claims. If Burton ignored and did not grant the opposing view any measure of merit his argument would not be effective. Considering he addressed the potential opposing beliefs of his audience, and proved why his argument still holds, the audience is persuaded by him since he proved himself to be insightful and knowledgeable; more ethos at work.

After establishing more credibility by acknowledging the opposing side of the argument, Burton drives his point home with examples to add to the logos he started to build earlier in the article. His next reason for college impeding education and success is that it is slow in bringing knowledge to its students. His exact words are. “When college gets to 2.0, they’ll be late for 3.0.” He includes a dialogue of what happens behind the scenes when professors try to get their courses and course material more up to date with the fast transmit of knowledge. Burton mentions all of the struggles that came when trying to get a new course or course curriculum added to the university such as, waiting for things that need to get approved, and waiting for academic committees that might not meet for another whole academic year. These things slow down the transmission and reception of knowledge. Students are able to communicate, transmit, and receive knowledge so quickly through media and online tools that by the time the professor was able to get new curriculum approved it will be behind what is new and necessary at that point in time. A second example to support his reasoning involves another dialogue about blocking the ability to blog and use “wiki” on school servers because the university wants to control what knowledge is transmitted and received, and they want to be the ones doing the transmitting. Both of these examples are effective in making Burton’s argument effective. First, the fact that they are specific, real life examples, allows the audience to understand how Burton’s ideas apply. These appeal to their logic since by seeing the effect of the problems, Burton is claiming, in real life gives them perspective and the ability to see the consequences more than a vague example would. Second, the examples are examples of dialogue that occurs between people in the situation he was describing. This allows the audience to relate to, and better understand the logic (logos at work) behind the reasoning of the individuals having the conversation. The Ethos of Burton is at work here as well; the examples are behind the scenes examples of what happens at a college. Since Burton is a professor the audience can trust that his examples are accurate representations of what happens in the real world; the credibility persuades them to agree more with his argument. This illustrates ethos and logos working together to make the argument effective.

Finally, to conclude his article, Burton uses pathos to draw the audience’s attention back to the passionate side of the argument. He explained his claims logically with reasons, established his credibility in the beginning and used it again in his examples to work together with the logos, and used pathos in the beginning to get his audience hooked and connected to him and his argument. Now that it is the end, Burton uses pathos in a way to rally his audience behind his claims. He celebrates the ways college students can use technology to its full potential in a way that college never does. By celebrating the innovation and uses of technology he is celebrating the generation of college students that has access to it all; these appeals to his audience’s emotions by making them feel celebrated; this rallies them behind his argument because now they feel the passion that he does. He says that they are changing the ways knowledge is transmitted and received; a way that college can’t keep up with. By making them feel elite it empowers them and results in their support for Burton’s argument. Once again, the audience feels connected to Burton, which makes them consider his argument with more bias. The order of pathos, ethos, logos and ethos, and pathos again, in Burton’s argument, is the reason his argument is effective. He effectively used each of the rhetorical devices, and applied them in an appropriate order that appealed to the audience in the most effective way.

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